It was shortly after 7:30 p.m. on a Friday night when shots rang through a trendy restaurant in Richmond, B.C.
Sources with knowledge of the crime scene say bullets came from outside the building — blasting shards of glass into a private party of 12 diners — and leaving one man dead from a bullet wound and another man with relatively minor face wounds. There were also families with children dining in other sections of the restaurant.
Investigators have officially described the Sept. 18 shooting as a targeted attack.
“It’s amazing not more people got hit,” a source said.
It was also the latest in a series of shootings in a region that is home to 10 of 14 organized crime groups listed by RCMP intelligence as high-level national threats.
The two victims are allegedly elite suspects in an international gang involved in money laundering at B.C. casinos. The attack was also on the eve of upcoming hearings, slated to run from October 2020 to April 2021, as part of the Cullen Commission, a provincial inquiry into money laundering.
While it’s not clear where that inquiry will lead, criminal intelligence sources say the nature of the shooting should serve as a warning about threats to national security and risks for Canadian politicians who have been observed meeting with dangerous people.
Intelligence sources say one of the victims, Paul King Jin, attended meetings organized in Canada by the Chinese Communist Party to allegedly interfere in Canadian politics and disrupt the country’s institutions.
According to sources, Jin survived the attack, while Jian Jun Zhu was killed.
Zhu was the corporate director of Silver International, a Richmond money services business. Canadian and international financial intelligence records allege this firm has been laundering at least $1 billion annually for drug gangs based in China, the Middle East and Latin America. The RCMP executed search warrants on the company in October 2015 as part of a major money-laundering investigation into Silver International and a network of high-stakes gamblers in B.C. casinos.
The gamblers were known to individually bet as much as $1 million per night in B.C. casinos, using bags of cash supplied by Jin and Silver International, RCMP said.
Jin and Zhu were both charged, but those charges were stayed and Jin has denied allegations of wrongdoing.
A number of Canadian politicians, including a British Columbia NDP minister, a city councillor in the Vancouver region, a former Richmond MP and a former Richmond federal minister known to be a key player in Liberal Party of Canada fundraising have all attended events and appeared in private and published photos with Jin. These events took place after the first media reports about the police investigation against Silver International in September 2017. Police confirmed the charges against Jin and Zhu a month after those media reports.
There is no evidence of wrongdoing on the part of the elected Canadian politicians who have attended meetings where Jin or others identified as suspects in RCMP documents are present, and it isn’t clear whether they were aware of the risks. The politicians say part of their jobs requires them to meet with constituents.
But Calvin Chrustie, a former RCMP superintendent in charge of targeting transnational organized crime networks, says he is concerned that Canadian politicians at all levels of government are putting themselves in danger by meeting with alleged criminals.
“I don’t think Canadian politicians should think they are immune from the violence from these networks,” Chrustie said. “Their capacity and capabilities should be a concern to all that directly or indirectly engage in nefarious business activity, from property development and real estate to finance, legal and other related business activities. If there is a risk to these transnational organizations, an option to mitigate risks is always murder.”
Foreign intelligence sources interviewed by Global News also warn of a larger threat of corruption to democratic systems in Western governments. For example, they allege that Chinese officials protect and take payments from gangsters and they fear that this type of activity could spread to countries like Canada.
Chrustie, who now works as a consultant on transnational organized crime threats with InterVentis Global and the Critical Risk Team, said that he believes that Canada’s intelligence allies — including Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom — are increasingly assessing transnational organized crime as a national security threat, but Canada is lagging behind.
Threats could also include political interference by the so-called “United Front” group.
Western intelligence analysts believe the United Front is a network used by the Chinese Communist Party to infiltrate other countries using agents in organized crime, business, media and politics.
Chinese government officials in Canada did not respond to a request for comment for this story.
China has denied the United Front is used for espionage, and leaders in Beijing say the United Front promotes the Chinese Communist Party’s interests.
But a collection of records reviewed by Global News, including published online material in Mandarin and private messages sent on the WeChat social networking app, show how Canadian politicians have been mingling in circles that include persons believed to be United Front members, representatives of the Chinese government and people with alleged ties to organized crime.
Paul King Jin, the man wounded in the restaurant shooting, has also appeared in some private and published photographs that show him with VIP gamblers, Canadian politicians, Chinese consular officials and business leaders at so-called United Front meetings.
Critics of the Chinese Communist Party’s efforts to infiltrate Canadian governments, including Hong Kong democracy activists, say Canada’s federal government has been ignoring intelligence warnings on the danger posed by United Front meetings, and Ottawa needs to start cracking down.
“Our community knows the kind of tactics the Chinese Communist Party has used in Hong Kong, where we have observed the Triads and the United Front connected, and how they use gangsters to beat up everyday people,” said Cherie Wong, executive director of pro-democracy group Alliance Hong Kong.
“It has already taken root in Canada, for the last decade or so, where we see the United Front meeting with politicians.”
She also said that she hopes the Richmond shooting “is a turning point” and that Canadians will start to take China’s United Front interference seriously.
“But this has gone from backroom dealings and benefits and political donations, to violence that could actually hurt innocent people.”
Vancouver has seen sensational murders linked to elite transnational gangs before, including the unsolved slaying of Big Circle Boys gang kingpin Raymond Huang. Huang was gunned down outside his westside Vancouver mansion in 2007.
And in 2009, Betty (Big Sister) Yan, described in legal filings as a Big Circle Boys casino loan shark, was executed in another unsolved hit.
Port Coquitlam, B.C., Mayor Brad West, a critic of China’s interference, said what Global News has found about the possibility that a criminal network was involved in the Richmond shooting should raise alarm bells in Canada.
“There is a well documented and co-ordinated effort by the Chinese government to expand their power in our government’s decision-making, and one of the most corrosive ways this is taking place is through the United Front’s efforts to influence and ideally control politicians,” West said.
“In the face of this knowledge, it is appalling that there are elected officials who seem intent on making the United Front’s job as easy as possible by meeting with them regularly, allowing them into their inner circle and paving their way to gain influence with other elected officials. It’s not only appalling, it should be disqualifying from holding elected office.”
In the House of Commons on Monday, Conservative MP Michael Barrett cited Global News’ investigation into Jin and the United Front.
“These individuals are linked to the Chinese Communist Party efforts to interfere in Canadian politics … (and) these same people have rubbed shoulders with well-known Liberals,” Barrett said. “When will these Liberals temper their affection for the Chinese Communist Party and protect Canada’s democracy?”
But Liberal Minister of Public Safety Bill Blair said the government “is actually quite firm in dealing with individuals that are attempting to hide their money in Canada, and on organized crime.”
And Blair said the previous Conservative government slashed federal law enforcement budgets.
Warrior Fighting Dream
Charges in the Silver International money laundering probe were stayed shortly before a trial in early 2019 because of a court evidence disclosure error that exposed a police informant who Canadian officials judged could be killed if the trial proceeded, Global News has reported.
But the B.C. government is still pursuing allegations against Jin and his associates in a civil lawsuit that has targeted Jin’s Richmond boxing gym business, Warrior Fighting Dream. A B.C. Supreme Court civil forfeiture action filed in August alleges that Jin purchased and maintained the multi-million-dollar facility with the proceeds of his crimes. The claim alleges Jin was laundering funds from China for his illegal casino businesses and to fund VIP gamblers at B.C. government casinos, using Silver International and various bank accounts.
“Mr. Jin has been engaged in large-scale money laundering activities involving licensed casinos, illegal gaming houses and an unlicensed financial institution since in or about 2012,” the B.C. Supreme Court claim alleges.
Jin has not filed a defence yet, but he has repeatedly claimed he is a legitimate businessman and that his wealth is “lawful.”
A lawyer defending Jin in a separate B.C. civil forfeiture action also related to Richmond illegal casino allegations did not respond to questions from Global News for this story. And Global News could not reach Jin for comment, through his Vancouver lawyer.
Meanwhile, Jin has been subject to multiple RCMP investigations besides the Silver International case. For example, Jin is named as “Suspect 22” in a transnational cartel investigation related to allegations of weapons trafficking and human smuggling, according to RCMP documents obtained by Global News. The RCMP will not confirm whether any charges have resulted in that investigation or any other investigation.
According to the documents, a number of people that gambled at Richmond’s River Rock Casino, with cash allegedly supplied by Jin and Silver International, rank above Jin in an organization that includes tycoon businessmen from northern China.
And one of the corporate directors of Jin’s Warrior Fighting Dream gym is a Mainland China businessman listed as a top-tier suspect in Jin’s alleged network, according to RCMP and B.C. corporate registry documents. It is not known if the director faces any charges in relation to multiple RCMP investigations of Paul Jin.
Burnaby Coun. James Wang also features prominently in a number of photographs and online media reports in Mandarin that detail events where Jin and a number of his associates were also present. The names of Jin’s associates also appear in RCMP documents obtained by Global News.
One of the WeChat photos obtained by Global News shows James Wang and Paul King Jin and a number of people who have attended events at Warrior Fighting Dream.
Global News contacted James Wang at his Burnaby council email address to ask about his attendance at events where suspects identified in the Jin network, including Paul King Jin, were also present.
Wang did not respond.
Global News previously asked Wang in 2019 about photos showing he was at events with people associated with RCMP money laundering investigations. At that time, he said: “I’m a Canadian citizen and I represent the people of Burnaby. I’m also proud of my volunteer work in the community, where I attend events and meet many people. I’m not a member of the United Front and I don’t associate with people who engage in illegal activity.”
Global News asked Scott McGregor, an intelligence analysis expert, and Clive Hamilton, an Australian academic who researches China’s interference networks, to comment on all of the records and photographs compiled by Global News.
McGregor specialized in assessing various sources of information collection including open-source records and he now works for Paladin Risk Solutions.
“There are indications that criminal networks in Canada are linked to events where individuals believed to be United Front Work Department have been present, and these associations should be considered as having the potential to impact national security,” said McGregor, who noted that he was not able to comment directly on the Richmond homicide or related investigations.
“And we know there is information that shows criminal networks are meeting often with Chinese consular officials in Canadian cities.”
Hamilton, a professor of public ethics at Charles Sturt University, told Global News that based on photos, he believes that James Wang has attended events where individuals identified by the RCMP as suspects in Jin’s network were also present.
“It’s very clear that the criminals are active in United Front organizations,” Hamilton said.
Global News asked the B.C. NDP party to comment on the fact that NDP Minister Lisa Beare attended the Warrior Fighting Dream gym in 2019 at an event with Paul King Jin.
George Smith, a spokesman for NDP premier John Horgan, said that “on Aug. 27, 2019 Minister Lisa Beare attended an event with B.C.’s Athletic Commissioner” at Warrior Fighting Dream. “Minister Beare was clear when this was last canvassed that she was unaware of Paul Jin or his association with the venue.”
Beare, the minister for tourism, arts and culture in John Horgan’s cabinet, is running for re-election in the riding of Maple Ridge-Pitt Meadows against B.C. Liberal candidate Cheryl Ashlie.
Another prominent B.C. political figure that attended a Warrior Fighting Dream event and posed for photos with Paul King Jin and a man identified as a high-level Jin group suspect in RCMP documents, is former federal Liberal minister Raymond Chan.
Chan has not responded to requests for comment from Global News sent to his LinkedIn account, asking if he knows Paul Jin and other men identified by the RCMP as transnational crime suspects. Chan has been a top fundraiser for the federal Liberals and has been pictured with Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at party fundraising events in Vancouver in recent years.
In an email responding to questions for this story, Liberal Party spokesman Braeden Caley said “the Liberal Party of Canada fully complies with the Canada Elections Act and all Elections Canada regulations for fundraising and political engagement.”
Caley said for privacy reasons he could not answer questions about Chan’s status with the Liberal Party.
Another Richmond politician, Wendy Yuan, spoke at a Chinese cultural association event in 2018 where Paul King Jin and associates of Jin identified in RCMP documents featured prominently. Yuan has previously run for the federal Liberals in B.C. and lost, and also put herself forward in 2019 in a failed bid to run for the federal Conservatives in the Richmond riding then held by Liberal MP Joe Peschisolido.
Yuan did not respond to a request for comment for this story.