There are growing concerns about reported extortion attempts targeting business owners in B.C.’s Fraser Valley.
Earlier this month, police in both Abbotsford and Surrey issued warnings following reports of individuals being targeted with extortion letters.
Global News has now obtained one of those letters, which claims to be from an “Indian gang.”
“We want your share from your business like protection money,” the letter states.
“We are asking only two million. We have links all over. Do not ignore us. It will effect you real bad.”
Former B.C. solicitor general Kash Heed said extortion schemes targeting ethnic communities, including South Asian British Columbians, were endemic in the early 2000s.
“Most of the people paid a sum of money, a sum of, if you want to call it, protection money,” he told Global News.
“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.”
The extortion letter obtained by Global News also makes reference to alleged shootings targeting two houses because their owners had refused to comply with demands for cash.
It warns the recipient if they want to do business in Abbotsford they need to pay up, adding that if they go to police, “no more letter only bullet.”
Abbotsford police say they have not been able to confirm connections between the extortion letters and gunfire.
Surrey Centre MP Randeep Sarai said the reported threats have caused concern, “particularly to the South Asian business community.’
“We’re asking that they all collaborate and correspond to the police and report any such threats whether they are over the phone, via text message or otherwise,” he said.
“If they want to be discreet about it, they are able to discreetly contact the RCMP or their local law enforcement agency, but they need to make sure they speak to them so they get the most current and accurate information.”
Abbotsford police would not make a spokesperson available for an interview, saying the investigative team advised them not to comment.
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The Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) B.C. said it was aware of investigations in Surrey and Abbotsford, and that it was offering support.
B.C. Public Safety Minister Mike Farnworth issued a statement of his own urging victims to come forward and touting ongoing provincial initiatives targeting organized crime.
“Violence and intimidation are not acceptable and have no place in British Columbia,” he said.
Heed said the province needs to take the lead on the file, and establish a task force to put the threats down immediately.
“You need to stem this type of behaviour and stem the problems we have and the lack of trust in how we respond to them.”
“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.”
Editor’s note: A previous version of this story said the extortion letters were specifically targeting South Asian business owners. While the letters have raised particular concern in the South Asian community they have, in fact, also been recieved by business owners of other cultural backgrounds as well.