Canada mayors seek action on extortion threats to Indian-origin businesses, India says ‘serious concern’

Two Canadian mayors have jointly appealed to the Justin Trudeau-led federal government to spearhead a coordinated, multi-jurisdictional strategy against the surge in extortion threats to South Asian businesses in their cities.

Mayors Patrick Brown of Brampton, Ontario, and Brenda Locke of Surrey, British Columbia, said they were deeply concerned for their communities.

Both Brampton and Surrey, housing massive South Asian communities, particularly Indians, have reportedly seen a rise in extortion calls from Canadian gangsters in the last two months.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, while responding to a question on extortion threats on January 4, called it a “matter of serious concern”.

CANADIAN MAYORS WRITE TO FEDERAL GOVERNMENT

The mayors of Brampton and Surrey wrote to the federal Minister of Public Safety regarding the same, expressing concerns this week. They also called for immediate actions to ensure the safety of the South Asians, reported CBC.

“We urge your ministry to recognise the inter-jurisdictional nature of these threats and to spearhead a coordinated response that ensures the safety and security of all affected communities across Canada,” the mayors wrote in their letter.

SURGE IN EXTORTION THREATS BY GANGSTERS

The Police Chief of Peel, in the Greater Toronto Area, Nishan Duraiappah, acknowledged the alarming increase in extortion threats. The extortion cases rose from nine in December 2023 to 20 in January 2024, he said.

Disturbingly, six of these cases involved violence, such as shootings at business properties, marking a concerning trend that police are investigating for possible transnational links.

The Extortion Investigative Task Force was launched in response to the increase in these incidents last month. It is currently investigating 16 such cases, reported CBC. A hotline was launched to register such cases last week, the report added.

“Threats of violence have become contagious such that fear is spread tremendously throughout the community,” Chief Duraiappah told CBC.

The suspected gang members often know the victim’s name, phone number, address and other business information, reported CP24.

‘MATTER OF SERIOUS CONCERN’, SAYS INDIA

Before the appeal by the mayors, India had on January 4 termed it a “matter of concern”.

Responding to a question on the surge in extortion calls by Canadian gangsters, Indian Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson, Randhir Jaiswal said, “It is a matter of concern”.

“Extortion calls, we’re getting extortion calls, people getting extortion calls, especially Indian nationals, is a matter of serious concern”, he said during a weekly media briefing.

Jaiswal, however, added that he didn’t have adequate information on the issue.

GANGSTERS MIGHT BE BASED OUTSIDE CANADA

Extortionists are reportedly employing sophisticated tactics by contacting victims through social media. Victims’ details such as names, phone numbers, addresses, and business information are picked up from social media, reported CBC.

After they establish contact, they demand money, under threats of violence, that, too, over social media.

Mayors Brown and Locke, in the letters, highlighted the heightened fears among South Asian business owners. Brown also linked the threats as originating from outside the Canadian borders, calling for international cooperation.

“I’d like to hear from the public safety minister that they have spoken to their counterparts in India, that the government of Canada has requested the full cooperation of law enforcement agencies there to make sure that we can apprehend the individuals behind these calls,” Mayor Brown said.

‘RESIDENTS BEING TERRORISED’

A spokesperson for the federal public safety minister assured that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) is collaborating with local police forces on the issue.

“If Canadians suspect they are the target of an extortion attempt, they should report it immediately to their local police force,” stated the federal public safety minister’s spokesperson,” said Jean-Sebastien Comeau, spokesperson of RCMP.

However, Mayor Brown stressed that more action is needed.

“We can’t tolerate our residents being terrorised,” he added.

Published By:

Sushim Mukul

Published On:

Jan 18, 2024

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