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Business extortion letters linked to recent White Rock shooting

Messages sent to businesses suggest they were sent by ‘Indian gang members’

BC RCMP are linking a recent shots fired incident in White Rock to a series of extortion threats impacting businesses across the Lower Mainland.

The RCMP and Abbotsford Police Department believe these incidents, which involve extortion letters being sent to businesses in Abbotsford, Surrey and Vancouver purporting to be from gang members in India, may be linked and are working in partnership to advance and co-ordinate an investigation into these matters.

“Police acknowledge that the threats circulating to businesses including a recent incident that involved shots being fired at a home in White Rock are deeply concerning,” the release says.

“As this investigation is active and ongoing, we are unable to provide further details at this time. We encourage anyone who is threatened to please call your local police department.”

White Rock RCMP received several reports of shots fired in a Marine Drive neighbourhood early Dec. 4.

A photo of the letter circulating online references two houses that were shot at in Abbotsford in November, saying they were targeted because they did not pay “protection money.”

The Abbotsford Police Department (APD) previously reported that on Nov. 4 shots were fired at about 3:20 a.m. in the 600 block of McCallum Road. The second call came within 10 minutes, in the 2100 block of Martens Street.

The extortion letter, which is not dated and does not name a recipient, demands $2 million in cash.

It opens with the statement “Warning. Read carefully. Do not think this is a fake letter” and indicates it has been sent by “Indian gang members.”

“If you want to do a business here in Abbotsford you have no other way and please make sure (you) do not contact police. If you did, then no more letter, only bullet,” it states.

The letter says the recipient has one month to pay and “to decide by phone or letter.”

“We have links all over. Do not ignore us. It will affect you really bad,” it states.

Const. Art Stele, media officer with the Abbotsford Police Department, said he cannot elaborate on the matter as it is under investigation, including in other jurisdictions.

“We have coordinated and liaised with the sharing of intelligence and information amongst our policing partners and ensuring we follow up on any leads on this case that may also include gang ties,” he said.

Premier David Eby called the whole situation “profoundly disturbing” while responding to a question from media at a press conference on Friday morning (Dec. 8).

“Business owners, particularly in the South Asian community, are feeling a lot of anxiety about this and rightly so. When you have this sort of organized crime taking place, it does threaten the stability of the whole community,” Eby said.

The premier went on to say that while some people may be hesitant to report to police with information on the topic, he encouraged people to do so to advance the investigation forward.

“We do not want our communities to be places where extortion attempts are regular, where we see threats against individuals and the only way is if we stand up against it and people share that information.”

Media outlets in India have been reporting on the extortion attempts in Canada, alleging they are linked to gangster Lawrence Bishnoi.

Bishnoi is currently in prison, and is one of the accused in the fatal shooting of Punjabi rapper and singer Sidhu Moose Wala in May 2022.

He continues to run his criminal enterprise from prison, according to the Indian media.

The topic of the extortion attempts arose Tuesday (Dec. 5) at a town hall meeting in Surrey attended by B.C. Conservative Leader John Rustad.

“I met with South Asian business owners in Surrey who are concerned about third world crime coming to Canada,” Rustad said in a post on X (formerly Twitter).

“Gangs threaten their businesses and ask for protection money. Entrepreneurs come to BC for safety and opportunity – we should deport and jail criminals who harass them.”

Police in Abbotsford, Surrey and Vancouver first warned of the extortion letters on Nov. 23, saying they might have been sent en masse to businesses, requesting money in exchange for protection from violence.

The agencies also said that some individuals had received phone calls.

They advised that anyone receiving the letter not engage with the suspect(s) and not send any money. Instead, they should contact police immediately.

– with files from Tricia Weel

Businesses in Abbotsford, Surrey and Vancouver have received extortion letters saying “Indian gang members” are demanding “protection money” of $2 million.