A surge of extortion letters, aimed at South Asian businesses in British Columbia’s Fraser Valley, has the local community fearing for their lives as tensions rise between conflicting ethnic groups.
The letters, purportedly originating from a group identifying as “an Indian gang,” insist on large sum payments from the recipients, accompanied by threats of death in case of non-compliance or if the matter is reported to law enforcement.
Letters shared online alleged that two residences had already been targeted with gunfire due to the owner’s failure to meet the financial demands outlined in the extortion threats.
The letter further asserts that those seeking to engage in business activities in Abbotsford must provide a share of their earnings, or they will encounter severe repercussions.
“We want your share from your business like protection money,” the letter reads.
“We are asking only two million. We have links all over. Do not ignore us. It will affect you real bad.”
BC Conservative leader John Rustad said that based on a recent meeting with local business owners in Abbotsford, a gang task force must be assigned to the case immediately.
“They would like to see the gang task force focused on going after these people,” Rustad told the Vancouver Sun.
“(They) are not seeing the action that needs to be taken.”
While authorities in Abbotsford and Surrey have cautioned the public about the extortion campaign, they have yet to establish any verifiable connections between the letters and the reported shootings.
Former B.C. solicitor general Kash Heed noted that such extortion attempts were prevalent in the early 2000s, predominantly affecting ethnic communities in British Columbia and seem to be returning.
“Most of the people paid a sum of money, a sum of, if you want to call it, protection money,” said Heed.
“Certainly not to the extent of millions and millions of dollars. But this is a level we seem to be going to now, where people are making these outrageous demands and threats.”
Expressing concern over the impact of these threats on the South Asian community, particularly business owners, Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai emphasized the need for vigilance.
Both the provincial government and the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) B.C. have acknowledged their awareness of ongoing investigations and affirmed their commitment to providing support.
Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth recently urged recipients of extortion letters to promptly notify law enforcement, assuring them of the government’s concerted efforts to combat organized crime.
“Violence and intimidation are not acceptable and have no place in British Columbia,” said Farnworth.
“There’s lots of innuendo of who is behind this … no matter where it’s coming from the enforcement officials need to take this seriously and address it in a coordinate nature.”