There has been a rash of extortion attempts on businesses run by the south Asian community across Canada and the police suspect the involvement of an organised crime racket located abroad, CTV news reports.
The modus operandi of extortionists is as follows: make phone calls or send text messages demanding a huge sum, and carry out shootouts if they refuse to pay up.
Quoting a police official from Toronto, CTV news said at least 20 companies have reported receiving an extortion call or message – six of those businesses have been shot at after declining to pay up.
The official claimed that the investigators are “exploring” the possibility that organized crime, outside of Canada, could be behind these extortion cases.
Similar extortion attempts have also been reported in Surrey, British Columbia, prompting the mayors of both Surrey and Brampton, Ontario, to write a joint letter urging the federal minister of public safety to take coordinated measures across the country to end this menace.
“The complexity and inter-jurisdictional nature of these crimes necessitate a more comprehensive strategy involving provincial and federal authorities,” the joint letter stated.
Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown told CTV News that investigations have led police in Ontario and Alberta to determine that these organisations reside in India.
An Indian-owned car dealership in Brampton received an extortion call last December. Days later, gunmen arrived at the dealership, fired multiple rounds, and recorded a video. They arrived again a few days ago and repeated the act.
The video was then posted on a TikTok account under the name Harry Chatha – a known gang leader in India where he’s been accused of extortion.
To keep staff and customers safe, the outlet has installed steel plates behind each of its windows. The owner of the dealership has reportedly left the country and is contemplating pulling his business investments out of Canada.
Expressing concern over these incidents, a spokesperson from the minister of public safety’s office told CTV News that the Royal Canadian Mounted Police are engaged with their local policing partners on this issue.
“If Canadians suspect they are the target of an extortion attempt, they should report it immediately to their local police force,” the spokesperson added.