Torture, drugs and kidnapping: How a turf war in Quebec’s organized crime world came to blows

Click to play video: '18 arrested in connection to gang-related crimes in Quebec'
18 arrested in connection to gang-related crimes in Quebec
In Quebec, 18 individuals have been arrested in connection with a series of gang-related crimes near Quebec City. Ten of these individuals are now facing charges related to the violence. Mike Armstrong explains that an organization called Blood Family Mafia appears to have picked a fight with the Hells Angels – Feb 25, 2024

The “peak” of a bloody dispute that was months in the making and rife with brutality led to sweeping arrests in Quebec over the weekend, according to an organized crime expert.

Criminologist and former Bloc Québécois MP Maria Mourani said the police crackdown resulted from a conflict between a street gang known as the Blood Family Mafia and the Hells Angels that came to blows.

The Blood Family Mafia (BFM) allegedly owed a 10 per cent cut of drug sales to the notorious biker gang and had grown tired of paying, according to Mourani.

“They never liked working for the Hells Angels,” Mourani said in an interview with Global News.

Quebec provincial police led raids over the weekend, with a total of 21 people arrested in a large-scale operation targeting organized crime. Investigators described a war over drug-selling territory in the Quebec City area, the Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean region, the Lower St-Lawrence and the North Shore.

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Quebec City police Capt. Marie-Manon Savard said four arrests Sunday had ties to David (Pic) Turmel, whom she described as the leader of the Blood Family Mafia.

“What I can tell you is that the people arrested today are people who are close to a leader of a known criminal group,” Savard told reporters during a news conference.

The conflict has escalated into violence in recent weeks — rife with tactics not often seen among Quebec’s street gangs, according to Mourani.

Click to play video: '16 charged, 18 arrested in major operation targeting organized crime in Quebec'
16 charged, 18 arrested in major operation targeting organized crime in Quebec

A man was killed and three others were injured during a hostage situation in St-Malachie, Que., just south of Quebec City, last week. Other people linked to the dispute have been kidnapped and tortured, police said.

Mourani said some criminal groups turn to methods like Molotov cocktails and even gun violence — but kidnappings and torture are rare.

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Those practices are seen in street gangs in Central America and “certain Mexican cartels,” she explained.

“It’s not something that is common in Quebec’s street gangs,” Mourani said. “Is this a new way of doing business? We’ll see.”

Hells Angels allegedly urged police to act

Growing tensions over drug sales between the Hells Angels and the BFM in the Quebec City area date back to last winter, according to Mourani. With his life potentially in danger, Mourani said the BFM’s leader fled to Europe a few months later.

But the Hells Angels have aimed to keep a low profile since the deadly biker wars over narcotic trafficking in the 1990s, Mourani said. The criminal groups’ fights led to the deaths of more than 160 people between 1994 and 2002, including nine bystanders, according to experts.

The biker gang now prefers to negotiate instead of turning to violence to settle scores, Mourani said.

“The Hells don’t want a war,” Mourani said. “They don’t want it to degenerate because it’s not good for business. It’s not good.”

Click to play video: 'Over 100 police officers deployed in organized crime crackdown in Quebec'
Over 100 police officers deployed in organized crime crackdown in Quebec

With the recent spate of violence, Mourani learned the authorities were urged to intervene. She said Hells Angels’ chapters in Montreal and Trois-Rivières were allegedly “not very happy” because the Quebec City chapter had not settled the dispute.

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“What my sources tell me is that the Hells were telling the police, ‘Do something because otherwise, we will be the ones to act,'” she said.

The crackdown by Quebec provincial police across eastern parts of the province has quickly added up, with charges ranging from torture and mutilation to drug trafficking. On Monday, police said 21 people had been arrested to date and more arrests could follow.

Former Montreal police detective Pietro Poletti told Global News that the street gangs in Quebec are a serious problem, partially due to their lack of respect for the more established criminal groups.

“They don’t care about traditional organized crime or the Hells Angels,” Poletti said.

Authorities have said the goal is to send a clear message to criminal groups: “We’re going to go after all the people who commit these crimes and we’re going to take them to court.”

Quebec Public Security Minister François Bonnardel issued a statement Friday, saying the operation showed the seriousness with which authorities were devoted to the fight against organized crime.

with files from Global’s Mike Armstrong, Dan Spector and Alessia Simona Maratta and The Canadian Press

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