Ties to organized crime possible in violent extortions of South Asians in Mississauga and Brampton, police say


Published March 12, 2024 at 12:33 pm

extortion task force mississauga brampton
Peel Regional Police have made 5 arrests in a string of extortions, including 23-year-old Gagan Ajit Singh of Brampton.

Dozens of attacks, shootings, arsons and threats targeting members of the South Asian community in three provinces including in Mississauga Brampton could be linked and tied to organized crime, police say.

Last month the RCMP formed a team looking into a troubling trend of South Asian residents and businesses in at least three provinces being threatened with violence in exchange for money.

At least 29 of the more than 70 cases happened in Mississauga or Brampton. Some of the incidents include multiple gunshots were fired at a Brampton business, and the case of a Hamilton man who threatened his former employer and “claimed to have ties to the mob,” police said.

At least six arrests have been made in connection to the local Ontario cases, but similar threats and attacks have occurred in both B.C. and Alberta and include several arsons and shootings – cases Mounties now say could be connected.

The RCMP’s new National Coordination and Support Team (NCST) has been tasked with cracking down on the targeted extortions and is working with law enforcement agencies in all three provinces which could be linked.

The team is not taking over any local investigations, but is providing support to facilitate information-sharing at a national level between forces including Peel Regional Police, Surrey RCMP, the Abbotsford Police Department and the Edmonton Police Service.

“The team is looking at all similarities and motivations as well as reports that these incidents are associated to organized crime groups,” NCST team leader and RCMP Supt. Adam MacIntosh said in a statement, saying the team allows different police services “to discuss their investigational progress, share intelligence and information and where necessary leverage additional resources and supports.”

MacIntosh said he couldn’t reveal any specific details of different police investigations, but said “we can certainly be satisfied that there’s an international component and that there’s very likely organized crime involved.”

“We recognize these events can be traumatizing for those who are subjected to threats and acts of violence,” MacIntosh said. “Identifying those responsible for these criminal acts and holding them accountable is our priority.”

Last month Peel Regional Police made five arrests connected to alleged extortion attempts in Mississauga and Brampton and laid more than 20 charges. Peel police launched the task force in December to investigate the incidents, which are similar to organized crime protection scams in India – a connection police now say they are looking into.

Police say victims in the scam will get a phone call or text message from fraudsters making threats for protection money, and in some cases, the demands have escalated to violence.

Some of the targets have been South Asian-owned businesses like restaurants and bakeries, trucking and transport companies, used car dealerships and jewellery stores. And in some cases, an individual’s home or family has been targeted with several nine extortion-related shootings and one arson under the task force’s investigation in Peel.

“We are pleased that the RCMP will now assist in facilitating open lines of communication across Canada and better coordination and collaboration that will assist bringing these crimes to an end and ensure the safety of our communities,” said PRP Chief Nishan Duraiappah.

And while police say the threats can be intimidating, investigators are urging any potential victims not to agree to the extortionist’s terms and contact local police immediately. The Mounties are also urging anyone with any information about these crimes or any victims of an extortion related offense to please contact investigators.

Anyone with information or who is a victim of an extortion related offence is asked to contact the Extortion Investigative Task Force by calling 1-866-966-0616 or email [email protected]. You can also contact Peel Crime Stoppers anonymously by calling 1-800-222-TIPS (8477) or by visiting www.peelcrimestoppers.ca.

– With files from The Canadian Press

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