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Organized Crime in Canada:
A Quarterly Summary

January to March, 2006

Organized Crime Activities

 ·        Counterfeiting, Contraband and Fraud

o       Contraband Cigarettes

o       Credit Card Fraud

o       Currency and Financial Instrument Counterfeiting

o        Fake Subway Tokens

o        Forged Government Customs Instruments

o        Knock-off Clothing

 ·        Drugs

o       Synthetic Drugs

o       Cocaine

o       Marijuana

 ·       Human Smuggling

 ·       Money Laundering

   

Organized Crime Genres

      ·   Italian

·     Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs

·      Tamil Tigers

·      Youth Gangs

Enforcement


Organized Crime Activities

Counterfeiting, Contraband and Fraud

Police cases, government reports, and ongoing research reveal that counterfeiting and contraband markets continue to thrive in Canada.

Part of the problem, according to critics, is the lack of effective anti-counterfeiting laws in this country. Among the critics is Toronto lawyer Lorne Lipkus who tracks counterfeit goods for manufacturers. In an interview with the Halifax Daily News, he said police and border officials are handcuffed by weak laws and a lack of resources to inspect incoming shipping containers. Lipkus said there is no legal mechanism in Canada that allows the Canada Border Services Agency to maintain a registry of trademarks similar to a database kept by United States customs officials. The U.S. registry allows customs officials in that country to seize and destroy imported items that don't match the official list. Lipkus said such a system in Canada would be a modest step toward curbing the problem of imported counterfeit goods. Lipkus said between 40 and 50 per cent of the worldwide distribution of counterfeit movie videos and DVDs come from Canada or are shipped to the U.S. through Canada from Asia.

The United States has also criticized Canada for not doing enough to stop counterfeits at the border. According to the 2005 report from the U.S. Trade Representative, "It is imperative that Canada improve its enforcement system so that it can stop the extensive trade in counterfeit and pirated products as well as curb the amount of trans-shipped and transiting goods in Canada. The United States also urges Canada to enact legislation that would provide a stronger border enforcement system by giving its customs officers greater authority to seize products suspected of being pirated or counterfeit."

Sources:Canada urged to beef up knockoff laws.” Halifax Daily News. January 12, 2006, p. 5 // “Montreal Counterfeit items pose real threat to public.” Montreal Gazette. September 6 2005. // Office of the United States Trade Representative. 2005. Special 301 Report. Washington, DC: USTR  

Contraband Cigarettes

An editorial in the Montreal Gazette in April comments on “a genuine and troubling issue: the rapidly-growing market for contraband cigarettes.” According to the newspaper, the Quebec government has acknowledged “industry figures suggesting that as many as one-fifth of all cigarettes consumed in Quebec are untaxed. Anyone who looks very hard can find cigarettes to buy for $20 or even $18 a carton. Given that the taxes per carton of 200 are some $40, it's obvious that governments are losing money in this.” The Quebec Finance Minister estimated that the contraband cigarette market has resulted in a tax loss of $113 million. The Gazette notes that one “special factor” has “slowed efforts to stop the revenue losses: the great majority of untaxed cigarettes come from, or through, native reserves, where governments fear to tread.”  Some of the untaxed cigarettes are cheap Chinese brands, some are counterfeits, packaged like Canadian brands but coming from China, Indonesia, Paraguay or elsewhere. But the great majority of bargain cigarettes are being produced on Indian reserves, says the Gazette. Besides the loss of tax dollars, the contraband cigarette market poses another threat: it can be accessed by children and youth. In other words, the networks that distribute untaxed smokes do not ask for proof of age, which legitimate retailers claim they do. “Nor are black-market smokes inspected for purity. They might not use the low-ignition-propensity paper the big companies use. The networks might well be peddling drugs or other contraband as well as cigarettes. In short, there's a social-policy reason to suppress this trade, as well as the fiscal reason.”

Source: “It's time to crack down on contraband smokes.” The Montreal Gazette. April 6, 2006, p. A18

Karim Hassan Nasser, a Lebanese-born, naturalized American citizen who drives a cab in Windsor, Ontario was accused of being "a major player" in a smuggling ring that sent part of its profits to a Lebanese terrorist group. Ten others who live outside the U.S. were also named in an indictment filed by U.S. Justice Department officials, including two other men from Windsor and two from Montreal. Nasser, 37, was among nine men arrested in Michigan in connection with a group that was alleged to have smuggled cigarettes, counterfeit Viagra and Zig Zig rolling papers, socks, toilet paper and baby formula between 1996 and 2004. Federal Justice authorities in the U.S. said profits from the operation were sent to Hezbollah, a Lebanon-based organization that Canada and the United States recognize as having links to terrorism.

As much as $500,000 worth of untaxed or low-taxed cigarettes were ferried each week between the Cattaraugus Indian Reserve  in New York state, North Carolina, Kentucky, Michigan and New York, authorities allege. The group would obtain low-taxed or untaxed cigarettes in North Carolina and the Cattaraugus Reserve and bring them to Michigan and New York, evading tens of millions of dollars in state cigarette taxes. Some of the proceeds included about $20 million in unpaid Michigan cigarette taxes. The ring also frequently used counterfeit state tax stamps to make it appear that taxes had been paid. The men paid cash for the large amounts of cigarettes and maintained warehouses in Taylor and Dearborn. The group eventually expanded their enterprise into trafficking in stolen and counterfeit goods and also arranged for shipments of counterfeit Viagra from the Middle East, China and Europe to the U.S. Some of the cigarettes sold were slapped with a "resistance tax" which the buyer was told was a levy specifically for Hezbollah, according to the indictment.

The indictment alleges the group, which was headquartered in Dearborn, Michigan, operated in Lebanon, Canada, China, Brazil, Paraguay and the U.S. "The criminal enterprise was bound together by a common heritage (Lebanese); a common language (Arabic); allegiance to and support of Hezbollah; blood relations; and a common purpose of generating large sums of cash illegally," the indictment says. An Assistant Federal Attorney said he has evidence that Nasser was a top-level courier for the group.

Source: “Man called 'major player' in terror smuggling ring.” The Windsor Star. April 5, 2006, p. A1 // “Suspects linked to terror.” National Post. March 30, 2006, p. A1

Credit Card Fraud

According to VISA Canada, credit card fraud perpetrated against Visa, MasterCard and American Express in Canada cost these companies $201 million in losses in the 12-month period ended June 2005. An increased industry focus on fraud prevention has reduced 2005 fraud losses for Visa, MasterCard and American Express by 10 per cent from $223 million in 2004. New technology has also been introduced to order to combat the problem. The so-called chip card, which has a microcomputer embedded in it, is much more difficult to copy and, like a debit card, uses a personal identification number for verification instead of a signature. But despite these security advances, credit cad companies must deal with an ongoing evolution in fraud techniques.

Counterfeit cards comprise the bulk of payment-card fraud losses at 40 per cent. Currently, the fastest-growing area of credit card crime is in the fraudulent use of an account, particularly in so-called "card not present" transactions. This occurs when criminals use stolen credit-card numbers to make fraudulent purchases from the Internet, mail order or by telephone.  “Card not present” transactions account for 37 per cent of all credit card fraud losses.

While credit card fraud continues to be a problem, there has been a shift to forged debit cards in recent years. Skimming is a process by which the full credit card data or debit card data on a magnetic stripe are electronically captured and replicated. Skimming involves using an inexpensive reader device -- which is portable and small enough to be concealed in the coat pocket of a waiter or a gas jockey, for example -- to swipe the payment card and capture the encoded information. In Canada, readers have been planted inside point-of-sale terminals to capture the PIN and magnetic stripe information. The terminal looks legitimate and appears connected and even spits out a receipt, albeit a bogus one, but it is in fact a stand-alone device. Other attempts at debit fraud include hot-wiring PIN key pads; using pinhole cameras to capture PINs; counter-surfing by criminals to capture PINs; and even unlawful telephone intercepts to capture raw data from merchants. The stolen information is then used to create counterfeit credit or debit cards. The Interac Association reported $70.4 m ill ion in debit-card fraud related to skimming in 2005, up from $60 m ill ion in 2004 and $44 million in 2003. While debit fraud continues to rise, skimming affects less than 0.01 per cent of all transactions. Interac will also start introducing chip technology in 2007.  

Bank card fraud is inextricably linked to the theft of personal identities. In March, more than 100 people in the Ottawa area were caught in a "wide-ranging identity- theft scam" where at least $500,000 in charges were made on phoney credit cards in the last four years. In a joint operation with Canada Post, Ottawa Police charged two people in connection with a criminal racket that has been operating since 2002. The operation used an online employment advertisement to lure people into submitting resumes, which the fraudsters responded to using official-looking letterhead. The letters stated the victims had been selected as candidates for a $70,000-a-year job as a "programmer analyst," and requested they submit an application form with a $20 processing fee. The application forms asked for the full name, social insurance number, driver's licence number and addresses of the targets. The people behind the fraud then allegedly used that personal information to obtain more that 60 credit cards, driver's licences and social insurance cards in other people's names. The employment scam was operated under the names of four non- existent companies: Logistic Telecom, IDCOR, Pastel Media and Metromedia.

The operation was uncovered when one of the victims contacted police after discovering his mail had been re-routed without his knowledge. After tracing the scam to a post office box, police later arrested two suspects at an Orleans home. At the same time, they discovered thousands of envelopes and sheets of letterhead from a fake company, several letters already addressed to prospective victims, and a stash of high-end electronics.

Sources: “The war on credit card fraud race.” Calgary Herald. March 19, 2006, p. E1 // “Identity-theft scam catches 100 people in net.” The Ottawa Citizen. March 9, 2006, p. B3

Currency and Financial Instrument Counterfeiting

In January, the RCMP in Chilliwack, B.C. busted what it called a “fairly high-tech” currency counterfeiting operation capable of producing thousands of dollars in all denominations. The operation was found inside an apartment by police acting on a tip. The RCMP seized several computers, hard drives, scanners and a laser printer believed to be used for the production of the counterfeit currency. Over $10,000 in counterfeit Canadian and $4,000 in counterfeit U.S. currency was found in bills and uncut sheets. Also found in the apartment were binders containing what police believe is stolen personal identification and credit cards - along with a book describing how to create driver's licences and fake ID on a home computer. More than 100 blank plastic cards to create fake licences and credit cards were also found. Police also seized methamphetamine, cocaine and crack cocaine. An RCMP official noted that there have already been 40 reported cases of counterfeit currency in the Chilliwack area in the first 26 days of the year. In 2005, a total 257 cases were reported to police.

In an another case in January, the RCMP in Kelowna, B.C. arrested a 29-year old man and seized $7,500 in counterfeit money in $20, $50 and $100 denominations. The RCMP then went to his hotel room where they arrested two more people and seized approximately $40,000 in counterfeit Canadian cash and $5,600 in counterfeit American money.

In February, police in New Brunswick arrested four Toronto men after discovering $10,000 in fake American bills. Miramichi police found the money while at a retail store after the store reported someone trying to use counterfeit money.

In Edmonton, two men and a woman were charged after counterfeit bank drafts were used to buy luxury cars, computers and jewellery. Edmonton police were alerted after a local bank contacted them in late November, 2005 about several accounts which had been illegally accessed online to buy printers and computers. Upon searching an apartment, police found four computers, high-quality paper, cutters, counterfeit American money, fake identification and cheques. They also seized stolen mail. Over the next two weeks, investigators discovered more frauds in which bogus bank drafts had been passed to buy used vehicles. The bank drafts were of such high quality that one fooled bank employees. The RCMP in Stony Plain , Alberta reported that someone had used a fake bank draft to buy a pickup truck from a local car lot. Later that day, officers stopped the truck. Inside they found a laptop computer, which police say was bought with a counterfeit bank draft. They also found more than 400 grams of crystal meth.

Sources: “RCMP bust counterfeit ring.” The Chilliwack Progress. January 27, 2006, p. 1 // “Fake money seized.” Kelowna Capital News. January 18, 2006, p. 16 // “N.B. police arrest four Toronto men after finding $10,000 in fake U.S. bills.” Journal - Pioneer. (Summerside, P.E.I.) February 13, 2006, p. A3 // “Sharp-eyed banker catches counterfeit trio: Money used to buy cars and luxuries.” Edmonton Journal. February 3, 2006, p. B8

Fake Subway Tokens

In Toronto, police made arrests in connection with a transit- fare counterfeiting ring that has cost the Toronto Transit Commission $10 million. Police say in excess of five million fake transit tokens were produced by duplicating real tokens with a stamping machine. The fakes were lighter, thinner, duller and had slightly sharp edges. A TTC superintendent says an investigation was launched after officials began noticing high-quality bogus tokens circulating in 2004. Late that year, a Toronto man whose pockets were stuffed with fake city transit tokens, which sparked the two-year investigation into the counterfeiting operation.

Authorities eventually traced the source of the fake tokens to the eastern U.S. and began working with the FBI. The U.S. Attorney's office in Buffalo, N.Y., became involved in the probe and, with the help of about 20 FBI agents, uncovered a sophisticated operation working out of an industrial complex. FBI officials said a Massachusetts company manufactured the tokens and shipped them to Niagara Falls, N.Y., where they were smuggled across the border. American authorities would not name the Massachusetts company – which makes casino chips and other tokens – but said it was likely unaware it was producing the tokens illegally.

The investigation culminated with the February 3 arrest of Toronto residents, Alex Beason, 36, and his brothers Alfredo, 49, and Reginald, 47, who police describe as the principals of the counterfeiting operation. Dozens of other people were arrested and charged.  

The TTC, which doesn't use watermarks or other special protection measures on tickets or tokens, is an easy target for counterfeiters. A TTC general manager said in 2004 that the system was losing about $7 m ill ion a year to fraud - about a third of that due to fake tickets and tokens. Since 2003 the TTC had laid about 450 criminal and provincial charges against people using phoney tickets.

Sources: “Counterfeit fares cost TTC $5M.” Toronto Star. February 10, 2006, p. E4 // “Counterfeit tokens cost Toronto Transit millions.” February 11, 2006, p. B8 // “Former North York basketball start charged in TTC fraud.” The North York Mirror. February 14, 2006, p. 1 // “Fake tokens costing TTC $5m a year.” Brantford Expositor. February 11, 2006, p. A5 // “Police arrest four people in costly TTC token counterfeiting scam.” Sarnia Observer. February 11, 2006, p. A8

Forged Government Customs Instruments

In February, a Russian immigrant, who was caught with hundreds of official-looking passport rubber stamps and negatives at an Ontario-New York border crossing, pleaded guilty to possessing counterfeit materials. U.S. Customs officers became suspicious when Grigori Gomziakov, a 42-year-old Toronto paralegal, tried to cross the border into the U.S. on April 7, 2004After a search, Customs agents found fake Canada Customs stamps from ports of entry at Pearson International Airport in Toronto and Dorval International Airport in Montreal. Police also found a list of fake bank accounts, one of which is under investigation by Interpol. 

He told the U.S. Customs officer he wanted to observe Niagara Falls when he tried to cross the border in a minivan, Nickels said. The officer noticed a box in the van and an inspection found rubber hand-held stamps and rubberized impressions for stamps. A further detailed inspection found a briefcase and Purolator package with hundreds of mounted and unmounted stamps, along with photographic negatives, including the two Canada Customs stamps, a U.S. admission stamp and U.S. immigration stamp I-551, commonly known as a "green card." Specialized negatives are used to make plastic templates that are then turned into hand-held rubber stamps, such as those for official seals for documents. The counterfeit customs stamps could make it appear individuals had been properly processed by immigration officials, which would facilitate illegal border crossings. Inspectors also found two folders containing blank Russian high school diploma forms and photocopies of passport documents. Finally, a CD was also found, containing electronic data of bank statements with the names and account numbers from 27 fictitious accounts - all containing $260 million. One of the accounts was subject of an Interpol inquiry.

U.S. officials decided to return Gomziakov to Canada and called in the RCMP. Gomziakov pleaded guilty in the Superior Court of Justice in St. Catharines to four counts of possessing a counterfeit mark in the form of photographic negatives. Gomziakov also pleaded guilty to possessing instruments or other writing material that is adapted and intended to be used to commit forgery. Gomziakov, a Canadian citizen who immigrated in 1998, runs a paralegal business called The Bridge which includes working in immigration matters.

Source: “Border haul included phoney passport stamps.” St. Catharines Standard. February 14, 2006, p. A6

Knock-off Clothing

A 32-year-old Halifax man who police claim made more than $1 million through the sale of counterfeit clothing was arrested following a one-year investigation by the RCMP and the Canadian Border Services Agency. Police estimate the man made more than $1 million since 2002, making this the biggest seizure of its kind in Nova Scotia. The RCMP said a Halifax residence was searched in January and officers seized a large quantity of "knock-off" clothing. The items included brands such as North Face, Abercrombie & Fitch, Ralph Lauren, Nike, and Lacoste. Police said the items were destined for sale on the Internet and at some retail outlets.

Source: “Man facing charges in counterfeit clothing sale.” Cape Breton Post. January 12, 2006, p. A7

 

Drugs

Canada was mentioned in two American government reports on international drug production and trafficking published in the first quarter of 2006.

According to the International Narcotics Control Strategy Report, which was released by the U.S. State Department’s Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs in March, “Canada is primarily a drug-consuming country, but remains a significant producer of high quality marijuana and transit point for precursor chemicals and over-the-counter pharmaceuticals used to produce synthetic drugs (notably MDMA/ecstasy and methamphetamine). Canada is a source country for marijuana and MDMA, and a transit or diversion point for precursor chemicals and pharmaceuticals used to produce illicit synthetic drugs.” The report goes on to state, “The demand for, and production of, synthetic drugs also appears to be on the rise in Canada, particularly methamphetamine and MDMA. Clandestine laboratories—traditionally located in rural areas but expanding into urban, residential neighbourhoods—are becoming larger and more sophisticated. Reports of Gamma-hydroxybutyrate (GHB) use are increasing.”  The report notes that that 95 per cent of the domestic supply of synthetic drugs comes from large, multi-kilogram operations. "Significant seizures of MDMA (ecstasy) from clandestine laboratories indicate they are larger and more sophisticated organized crime operations."

The report also notes that marijuana cultivation in Canada is a thriving, low-risk pursuit, due in part to "low sentences meted out by Canadian courts."

In the U.S. Justice Department’s National Drug Threat Assessment Report released in January, Asian criminal groups operating in Canada received particular emphasis. According to the report, “Canada-based Asian criminal groups with access to MDMA from Canada and Europe have surpassed Russian-Israeli drug trafficking organizations as the primary suppliers of MDMA to U.S. drug markets; they are also positioned to become the predominant transporters and distributors of high potency, Canada-produced marijuana.” In fact, the report says, “increasing distribution of high potency marijuana by Asian criminal groups as well as expansion of domestic high potency marijuana production appears to be significantly raising the average potency of marijuana in U.S. drug markets, elevating the threat posed by the drug.”

The report goes on to state that “anecdotal reporting and cannabis eradication and marijuana seizure data all indicate that marijuana production in Canada has recently increased, perhaps significantly.”  Moreover, “the data further indicate that marijuana seizures along the U.S.-Canada border—typically, seizures of high potency marijuana—have nearly tripled since 2001, although they are still much lower than seizures along the U.S.–Mexico border…” The “sharp rise in marijuana smuggling from Canada via the U.S.-Canada border” is blamed on by greater smuggling by Asian criminal groups, who are “increasing their position as wholesale distributors of Canada-produced marijuana” in the United States.

Sources: United States. Department of State. 2006. International Narcotics Control Strategy Report -2006. Washington, DC: United States. Department of State, Bureau for International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs. // U.S. Department of Justice. 2006. National Drug Threat Assessment. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Drug Intelligence Center. // “U.S. report warns of Canadian marijuana, drug labs.” The Ottawa Citizen. March 15, 2006, p. A6

Synthetic Drugs

In January, Halifax police seized 40,000 ecstasy pills during a raid on a house. Two men and one woman were arrested. Police say it was the largest seizure of ecstasy ever made in that city. The value of the pills is estimated at between $600,000 and $1 million. Police also seized a quantity of cocaine, cash and a small amount of marijuana and assorted drug-related paraphernalia during the raid.

Source: “Cops make huge seizure of ecstasy.” Halifax Daily News. January 17, 2006, p. 4 // “Halifax police make huge drug seizure.” New Glasgow Evening News, January 17, 2006, p. A7

In January, U.S. customs officers charged two 17-year-old Canadians after they seized 5.3 kilograms of ecstasy concealed on them when they tried to cross the B.C.-Washington state border in a vehicle.

In February, a 39-year old man from Lillooet, B.C was arrested after U.S. Customs officers seized a stash of ecstasy pills found in the spare tire of a passenger vehicle that tried to cross the border at Sumas, Washington. Officers became suspicious of the B.C. vehicle and subjected it to a detailed secondary inspection. An X-ray of the spare tire turned up about 13.2 kilograms of the drug, more than 51,000 tablets.

On March 16, U.S. Customs seized 671,000 tablets of ecstasy at the Washington-British Columbia border. American officials cited this seizure as a symptom of increased smuggling of drugs from B.C. into Washington state. "The new trend we're seeing up in western Washington coming down from British Columbia is a rise in ecstasy over the last few years. It's just grown in leaps and bounds," one Customs official stated. Narcotics smuggling from British Columbia continues to be a major enforcement priority said a U.S. border spokesperson, who called the seizure "significant." Along with the tablets, which weighed in at 210 kilograms, Customs agents also seized 375 kilos of marijuana. The drugs were found in 21 drums stashed among a total of 128 drums in a truck with B.C. licence plates. The manifest recorded the cargo as shredded scrap plastic. The truck driver and passenger were briefly detained, but released. No charges were laid.

Sources:U.S. officials grab drug shipment at B.C. border.” The Vancouver Sun. March 18, 2006, p. B9 // “Seizure of ecstasy proof of 'new trend': American officials say flow of tablets south rising.”  The Vancouver Province. March 19, 2006, p. A15 // “Ecstasy seizure.” Prince Rupert Daily News. February 2, 2006, p. 7

In February, police in Ontario seized an estimated $200,000 worth marijuana, ecstasy and crystal methamphetamine. The seizures were made during morning raids in Whitby, Oshawa, Stouffville and Markham. Six people faced numerous charges as a result of the seizure of more than 412 grams of crystal meth; almost 3 kilos of ecstasy, 244 grams of hashish; and 3 kilos of marijuana.

Source:Whitby couple caught up in $200,000 drug bust.” This Week. (Clarington, Oshawa, Port Perry, Whitby, Ontario) February 7, 2006, p. 1. 

The Edmonton Police gang unit seized more than $200,000 worth of ecstasy tablets, crack cocaine and an assortment of other street drugs in early March. Ammunition, bulletproof vests and a box full of $30,000 in neatly folded cash was also uncovered.

Source: “Gang unit seizes $200,000 of street drugs.” Edmonton Journal. March 3, 2006, p. B2

In March, a Vancouver police investigation into a case of identity theft mushroomed into a major drug investigation and led to the seizure of enough chemicals to make hundreds of millions of dollars worth of ecstasy and crystal meth tablets. The investigation began December 10, 2005 when a Burnaby man found he was being charged for space in a commercial storage facility. He had not rented any space so he called police who went to investigate what appeared to be a case of identity theft. What they found in the storage facility was five pallets containing 140 boxes. Each box contained two 15-litre containers marked soya sauce. The ingredients were shipped from China. The containers were actually filled with the liquid precursors for making ecstasy and crystal meth. The chemicals would have produced 750 kilograms of ecstasy and 500 kilograms of crystal meth. On the street, the pills could have fetched as much as $680 million. When police tried to investigate the persons responsible for arranging the importation, they ran into a dead end. As a result, no arrests have been made. "We're finding more and more that identity theft and the manufacturing of chemical drugs are all mixed up together," according to one police official. Using stolen or false identities helps conceal the identities of individuals behind criminal conspiracies.

Source: “Identity-theft probe leads to seizure of ingredients for crystal meth.” The Vancouver Sun. March 4, 2006, p. B5 // “Huge bust of drug raw materials.” The Vancouver Province. March 5, 2006. p. A4

Cocaine

Police and Canadian border officials seized 126 kilograms of cocaine from inside a propane tanker truck that crossed into B.C. from the United States but did not report for inspection. Canada Border Services Agency notified police after the truck traveled through the Aldergrove crossing in Langley on January 11 and RCMP officers were able to stop the truck a short time later. A subsequent inspection using X-ray technology revealed numerous duffle bags and backpacks of cocaine concealed within the tanker. All totalled, they contained 86 packages of cocaine, valued at $3.78 million. A CBSA spokeswoman described the finding as "very big," pointing out that there has been no seizure of that magnitude anywhere in the Lower Mainland "for at least four or five years." Kevin Epp, 34, of Mission, was charged with importation of a controlled substance and possession for the purpose of trafficking.  

Sources: “126 kilograms of cocaine seized from tanker truck that crossed into Canada without stopping.” The Vancouver Sun. January 14, 2006, p. B3 // “Propane tanker load of cocaine 'ran' border.” The Aldergrove Star. January 19, 2006, p. 1

In early February, an inspection a commercial flight that landed at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in Montreal from Venezuela discovered 41.5 kilograms of cocaine, in 38 bricks, with a total estimated street value of $5 million. The coke was found concealed in three metallic containers that carry trays of food for passengers. Inspectors from the Canada Border Services Agency made the discovery during a risk-based examination of the aircraft as it sat on the airport’s tarmac. The Zoom Airlines flight originated in Porlamar, on the resort island of Margarita in Venezuela. Ottawa was its final destination.

Sources: “Police seize 41.5 kilograms of cocaine from airplane.” The Montreal Gazette. February 4, 2006, p. A10 // “41.5 kilograms of cocaine found aboard Venezuelan flight with a Montreal stopover.” National Post. February 4, 2006, p. A6

In November 2005, the RCMP in Montreal discovered 300 kilograms of cocaine hidden inside three drums that were part of a shipment of 216 barrels of lubricating oil. The RCMP investigation indicates there were four or five similar shipments of oil into the city last year from Venezuela that might also have contained large amounts of Colombian cocaine. What makes this shipment particularly frightening is that the cocaine was laced with heavy doses of a chemical additive used by veterinarians to kill tapeworms in domestic animals. The RCMP seized the drugs following a tip-off from U.S. Customs. The U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration put out a bulletin last year claiming sources told them Colombians were shipping cocaine in oil barrels. No one has been arrested and the RCMP is unsure if any of the previous shipments contained cocaine (and its additives). The November shipment was destined for Olco Petroleum Group Inc., based in east-end Montreal, according to the bill of lading. The Venezuelan shipper was Gran Lacteos de Venezuela. Olco officials have denied any knowledge of the cocaine. According to the RCMP, Olco purchased the shipment on behalf of a small lubricant wholesaler called Canadian Lubricant Products. The owner of this company denied any knowledge of the cocaine shipment.

Source: “Tracking cocaine in a can.” The Montreal Gazette. April 1, 2006, p. A1 // “Police find coke laced with tapeworm-killing chemical.” Cornwall Standard - Freeholder. April 1, 2006, p. 8

In another case that can only serve to caution coke-heads to be careful what they are putting up their noses, William Dalzell, 40, of Niagara Falls was sentenced to 30 days in jail after he was caught selling coke that was cut with small pebbles that resembled cat litter. Police also detected traces of drywall dust.

Source: “Niagara Falls man mixes kitty litter with cocaine.” St.Catharines Standard. April 1, 2006, p. A7

In March, 11 kilograms of cocaine worth more than $1.3 million was seized at the Peace Bridge that spans Ontario and New York State, making it the largest-ever cocaine bust by the Canada Border Services Agency in the Niagara region. CBSA officers referred two men crossing into Canada from the U.S. to secondary inspection for verification of their declarations. Following an examination - which included an X-ray of the spare tire of the vehicle - the cocaine was found.

Source: “Huge coke bust at border.” Niagara Falls Review. March 16, 2006, p. A1

A midnight raid at a notorious crack house in downtown Hamilton resulted in the arrest of 11 people and the seizure of 328 pieces of crack cocaine, 10 ounces of pot, a samurai sword, a pellet gun, cash, crack pipes, hunting knives, and one dead pit bull (k ill ed by police). When searching the filthy, drug-laden apartments, Police found a handwritten neon pink-coloured poster that had five rules for proper crack-head conduct in the drug house. Among them: Money is to be given directly to the runner who resides in this room. 15-20 minutes after you finnish (sic) your business, you w ill be asked to leave. No violence! Conflicts can and w ill be dealt with by house security. The sign ends with a polite thank you from "Mgmt." The whole operation was a well-oiled drug outlet, designed to get the crack addicts in and out quickly, according to Hamilton police. A crack addict looking for a hit is ushered to a "smoke house" – one of the apartments in the building. That flat's tenant gets a cut of the subsequent deal, either in money or a toke. In the smoke house, the addict gives money to a "runner," who also gets a cut. Twenty dollars buys an individually wrapped twenty-piece, about .2 grams of crack. Sometimes, sex will buy the drug. The runner heads to another apartment to obtain the crack from the dealer and then returns to the smoke house and hands the crack over to the addict, who has to smoke and leave as quickly as possible. An elaborate security system was also in place. The first line of defence against both police and competitors is a series of surveillance cameras overlooking hallways, doors and apartments. A "heavy" enforces the house rules and works as a lookout.

Source: “Sophisticated crack house stuns cops; Apartments above notorious tavern used detailed 'house rules' for addicts, security systems.” The Hamilton Spectator. February 10, 2006, p. A7

Marijuana

A round-up on some of the larger marijuana busts in the past three months.

January

Inside a small bungalow, members of the Niagara Falls street crime unit found in excess of 1,000 marijuana plants, in various stages of growth. "This is one of our largest indoor grow ops we've had in Niagara Falls," said a police spokesperson. The building had been stripped bare to accommodate the plants and had been running for at least two months. One bedroom housed soil and fertilizer, another was filled with excess growing equipment and a third housed a small crop of plants.

The RCMP in Edmonton charged two men with drug and firearm offences in connection with a $1.2-million marijuana grow operation. Police found 1,180 marijuana plants, hashish, as well as a loaded 9-mm handgun.

Police busted a marijuana grow op located in a house in North Delta, B.C. and seized over 900 marijuana plants. "It's fairly significant but it's not out-of-the-ordinary big," a police official said.

In Toronto, the Criminal Organization Marihuana Enforcement Team, charged four people in relation to four marijuana grow operations, located in the Greater Toronto Area. The arrests followed the seizure of around 750 marijuana plants, 65 pounds of harvested pot, and more than $38,000 in cash.

In Ottawa, one man was charged after police dismantled two marijuana grow operations. The first bust occurred in the suburb of Kanata, where police seized 1,040 marijuana plants. A second seizure occurred the following day in Ottawa South. There, police found 807 plants.

Sources: “Police bust major pot operation: Nearly $1 million in drugs seized.” Niagara Falls Review. January 20, 2006, p. A1 // “Two charged after $1.2M drug bust.” Edmonton Journal. January 24, 2006, p. B5 // “Cops bust sizable grow op at North Delta house.” Now ( Surrey) January 25, 2006, p. 3 // “Four Grow Ops Found in the GTA.” Canada NewsWire. January 26, 2006, p. 1 // “Police dismantle two marijuana grow-ops.” The Ottawa Citizen. January 27, 2006, p. F5

February

One of the largest marijuana grow-operations in Prince George, B.C. was shut down when 1,600 plants were seized from a home. Also confiscated by police were a collection of books on growing marijuana, weigh scales, a cash counting machine and a collection of ledgers RCMP believe may contain records of the operation.

The RCMP found a large underground marijuana grow operation at a property near Hope, east of Vancouver. The complex featured an elevator and several large rooms housing more than 4,000 plants in various stages of growth or drying. Police said five suspects were diverting electricity straight from a power pole to their own transformers. The suspects tried to flee. One managed to make it to a nearby highway, where he flagged down a motorist who happened to be an on-duty RCMP member.

Approximately 2,500 plants were seized from a home in Peterborough County in Ontario by the provincial police. The drug unit has been busting between three and four grow ops in Peterborough County each week, a local police official said.

Sources: “Big pot bust.” Peace River Block Daily News. February 24, 2006, p. A3 // “RCMP find underground pot-growing operation.” The Globe and Mail. February 25 2006 // “Bust seizes $2.5 M in pot: Havelock grow op under investigation for three years.” Peterborough Examiner. February 28, 2006, p. B3

March

In Orilla, Ontario Police raided three homes simultaneously, seizing almost 3,000 plants in total.  

The RCMP in Mission, B.C. seized more than $200,000 cash and 115 pounds of dried and packaged marijuana when they raided a house. They also found numerous firearms on the property, including a prohibited assault rifle and two loaded handguns.

At least five large grow operations were taken down by Ridge Meadows RCMP in March. Three were located in a new, upscale subdivision in Pitt Meadows, B.C. There police discovered more than 2,500 plants. In one house, the grow-op was found in a crawl space, which was divided into four rooms, each with plants in various stages of development. Fumes from the grow-op were being vented out of a bathroom upstairs. The house was bare on the inside, except for a palm plant located by the front door, which, ironically, was in need of water. Police suspected all three operations were connected. Another grow-op taken down by the Ridge Meadows RCMP contained 1,032 plants. In another home, the RCMP seized 638 plants. All five homes were gutted to make room or plants and it was located next to a daycare.

Police arrested four people and laid 76 charges after nine marijuana grow operations were found in nine separate apartments in a North York, Ontario residential building. Police seized 2,370 plants with a street value of more than $2.3 million.

Sources: “Cops make big bust.” The Prince George Free Press. March 1, 2006, p. A5 // “Cops raid local grow-ops: More than $1.8 million of marijuana seized from three homes.” Orillia Packet and Times. March 1, 2006, p. A1 // “Huge pot bust in Mission.” Abbotsford Times. March 3, 2006, p. 13 // “Three pot busts in Bonson.” The Maple Ridge News. March 25, 2006, p. 1 // “Marijuana bust yields more than 2,000 plants.” The North York Mirror. March 23, 2006, p. 1 // “Tips lead to grow-op busts.” The Maple Ridge News. March 11, 2006, p. 48 // “Four people charged in marijuana grow-op bust. “ Toronto Star. March 27, 2006, p. B2.

Human Smuggling

In February, 11 Canadians were charged in an alleged international human smuggling ring. The RCMP worked with the Canada Border Services Agency and U.S. Homeland Security officials to crack the operation this week after a two-year investigation. The RCMP say that more than 100 migrants from China, Korea, Albania and Eastern Europe, who paid $4,500 to $40,000 (U.S.) each for their illegal passage, were apprehended in the probe.  

Source: “Twelve charged in human smuggling ring.” The Globe and Mail. February 18, 2006

Money Laundering

Martin Tremblay, a native of Chicoutimi, Quebec, was arraigned in a New York court room in late January on charges he used his Nassau, Bahamas company, Dominion Investments Ltd., to run a lucrative money laundering business from 1998 to the end of 2005. The Quebec man was arrested in New York and charged with laundering (U.S.) $1 billion in proceeds from an array of illegal activities. An indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court alleges that Tremblay laundered proceeds from trafficking cocaine and GHB. He is also accused of laundering the proceeds of "securities fraud scams, income tax evasion, wire fraud scams and bank fraud, among other crimes."

To launder the money, Martin allegedly created shell companies and used false names, addresses and telephone numbers, the indictment states. It also says he and unidentified co-conspirators used banks in Canada, the Bahamas and elsewhere to deposit and transfer illegal money. Tremblay used Dominion Investment accounts to receive the illicit money. Once the illegal funds were received, the money was laundered by wire-transferring the funds to other bank accounts around the world. Between 2003 and 2004 alone, U.S. authorities say, Tremblay moved more than $1 billion. He is said to have received "substantial commissions" for his services.

Tremblay was targeted in a police sting operation in which undercover agents, posing as drug traffickers, transferred $220,000 to accounts related to Dominion Investments on Tremblay's instructions. Tremblay was videotaped agreeing to launder large amounts of money earned from narcotics sales as part of the sting operation, according to a U.S. Department of Justice press release.

Sources:Quebec man charged with money-laundering.” The Montreal Gazette. January 25, 2006, p. B4 // “Freeze sought on company's assets; Securities commission in court $1 billion money laundering alleged.” Toronto Star. February 1, 2006 p. E1

Organized Crime Genres

Italian

Pat Musitano is being refused a transfer to a minimum security prison by federal Corrections officials because he is the known leader of an organized crime family who regularly visits and corresponds with known criminals. Musitano has been given numerous chances during the transfer application process to deny his involvement in organized crime or to say he is no longer affiliated with a crime family. Doing so could help him get into a minimum security facility. But he hasn't done that so far, court documents say. A declassified police intelligence report written for Correctional Service Canada at the time of the former Hamilton-based mobster’s sentencing in February 2000 predicted he would continue to run his organization from prison. That report, and the concerns it raises about the Musitano organization, are a major reason why Musitano has so far not been allowed to move to a less secure facility.

For months, Musitano has been asking for the move and, even though parole officers have recommended "cascading" him down to minimum security, Musitano has been refused by three different wardens at Warkworth. Much of it hinges on Musitano being labelled as an organized crime member. That designation was based, according to documents filed with the court, on a declassified intelligence report from Project Expiate, a joint force police operation that resulted in the arrests of Pat and his brother Angelo. Expiate was formed to solve the murders of Hamilton crime boss Johnny (Pops) Papalia, his lieutenant Barillaro and the 1985 gangland-style murder of Salvatore Alaimo in Hamilton. The Musitano brothers were originally charged with first-degree murder and of ordering the 1997 contract killing of Papalia, but those charges were withdrawn when they pleaded guilty to the Barillaro charge. Musitano was convicted of conspiracy to commit murder in the 1997 shooting death of Barillaro.

Source: “Musitano stays in the Big House.” The Hamilton Spectator. February 25, 2006

Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs

In what police are referring to as an "internal cleansing" of the Bandidos motorcycle gang, five people have been charged with first-degree murder in the slayings of eight men in southwestern Ontario. All of the victims and some of the accused have ties to the Bandidos. The bodies of the victims were all found April 8, stuffed into four vehicles parked in a farmer's field about 30 kilometres west of London. They had all been shot. The killings are the worst mass murder in Ontario history. The eight people may have been shot at several nearby locations before being brought to the field and left in the three cars and tow truck in which they were found, according to an OPP official.

The dead include six full-patch members of the Bandidos: George Jesso, 52, of Etobicoke, George Kiriakis, 28, of Toronto, Luis Manny Raposo, 41, of Toronto, Francesco Salerajno, 43, of Toronto, John Muscedere, 48, of Chatham, and Paul Sinopoli, 30, of Sutton. The two other victims are Jamie Flanz, 37, of Keswick, whom police said was a "prospect member" of the Bandidos, and Michael Trotta, 31, of Mississauga, described as an "associate member." 

Muscedere was believed to be the president of the Bandidos in Canada, whose sole official Canadian chapter in Toronto comprised 12 members (at least until the killings). Before he joined the Bandidos, Muscedere was a senior figure in the Annihilators motorcycle gang and later led a group called the St. Thomas Loners. In 1991, he was charged with shooting and wounding another biker.

Four men and a woman – including one full-patch Bandido and four associates – were arrested after a lengthy police standoff outside the nearby farmhouse of one of the accused. Among the four men and one woman from Ontario who are charged is Wayne Kellestine, who, police say is a full member of the biker gang. His house was only a few kilometres from where the bodies were found in four abandoned vehicles Saturday morning. 

The Hells Angels and other rival motorcycle gangs appear to have had no role in the slayings. "There's nothing to indicate that there's anything outside the Bandidos ...this is simply an internal cleansing," said Det. Insp. Don Bell of the Ontario Provincial Police Biker Unit.

The Bandidos moved into Canada in 2000, when they took over the Rock Machine, who were engaged in a war with Hells Angels over the Quebec drug trade. A civil war erupted among the Bandidos when the Hells Angels recruited Paul (Sasquatch) Porter, a prominent Rock Machine leader who had survived three murder attempts. He persuaded several members of the Bandidos to jump to the Hells Angels, the first sign of serious internal tensions within the Bandidos’ Canadian organization.

The Bandidos' small Toronto chapter has tried to make inroads in Alberta and Manitoba, but with little success against the Hells Angels behemoth. "Because their numbers were so low in Canada, the U.S. Bandidos had tried to separate themselves from Canada," said a police officer with the Criminal Intelligence Service of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

Sources: “Five charged in biker gang killings.” CBC News. April 10 2006 // “A bloody 'cleansing'  Murder charges laid against five people in slaying of eight Bandidos bikers.” The Globe and Mail. April 11, 2006 / “The Shedden killings. Bandidos flaunt brutal pedigree.” The Globe and Mail. April 11, 2006

On January 18, officers from the joint forces investigation, Project Husky, charged 27 people in Northern Ontario, Quebec, and Alberta for their connection to a major drug trafficking ring. Project Husky, a two-year, covert investigation focusing on specific Hells Angels motorcycle gang members and associates, began in January 2004. During the investigation, a number of drug seizures, including cocaine, marihuana, Ecstasy, Percocets, and Oxycontin, were made. Police estimate the retail street value of the drugs at $2.3 million. The investigation found strong ties to the Quebec Hells Angels, and the drugs were being distributed there, according to police. Also seized were handguns and other firearms, recreational vehicles and cash. Those charged include five full members and one “hang-around” of the Hells Angels. Among those arrested was Andre Watteel, 53, a former president of the Kitchener Hells Angels chapter. Police believe Watteel has an association with the Thunder Bay chapter of the Angels. The charges against him include two counts of fraud, one count of possession of stolen property and one count of conspiracy to possess stolen property.   

Police said their investigation showed the Hells Angels work in cells and members use associates to carry out their criminal activity and insulate them from prosecution. According to police sources, five members of the Thunder Bay chapter were among those arrested. The chapter in Thunder Bay was chartered in January, 2001 with the help of the Hells Angels Nomads chapter in Montreal. In December, 2000, influential members of the Nomads chapter travelled through Ontario convincing more than 160 members of small biker gangs such as the Satan's Choice to join them. Watteel was one of the former Satan Choice members who patched over. In September, a member of the Thunder Bay chapter was sentenced to a seven-year term for his role in a drug trafficking network that ran from Northern Ontario to British Columbia. The five arrested yesterday would represent most of what is left of the chapter, a police source said.

The alleged network was brought down after the successful infiltration of the Thunder Bay Hells Angels by a police agent who spent nearly two years undercover. The undercover police agent was so convincing that a police-owned tractor-trailer he made available to his Hells Angels associates appears on the back page of the Ontario Angels' 2006 calendar.  Redecorated with the Angels' distinctive red-and-white insignia, the truck was used for almost two years to haul members' motorcycles around, and was driven by the agent.

Sources: “Project Husky - 27 Charged in relation to Organized Crime, Conspiracy and Drug Trafficking. Canada News Wire. January 19, 2006 // “Arrests net bulk of Thunder Bay chapter of the Hells Angels.” National Post. January 19, 2006, p. A10 // “A Hells Angels kingpin at centre of sting; Cambridge entrepreneur, others arrested; $1.5-million worth of cocaine is seized.” The Globe and Mail. January 19, 2006, p. A3 // “Hells Angel denounces biker bust in northern Ontario as election PR stunt.” Canadian Press NewsWire. January 19, 2006. //  “Hells Angels bust nets 27; Police whisk Cambridge man to Thunder Bay.” The Kitchener Record

At least eight members of the Hells Angels elite Quebec Nomads wing are serving sentences of 20 years or more while their leader, Maurice (Mom) Boucher, is serving a life sentence for ordering the deaths of two prison guards. After lying low for a while, those members of the Hells Angels who aren’t in jail have started to surface around Montreal, according to the Gazette. They have been seen at events like motorcycle shows, sporting their colours. Despite the high number of Nomads members in jail, the Hells Angels as a whole seem to have won the war against rival gangs in Quebec. Their main rivals in 2001, the Bandidos, no longer have chapters in Quebec, and the Hells Angels appear to have increased their membership since then. According to police intelligence reports that were recently made public, the gang's Trois Rivieres chapter simply took over the Nomads' drug trafficking turf with the help of a gang called the Syndicate.

The Hells Angels also seem to have learned some lessons following Operation Springtime in 2001 when dozens of members were arrested and put in jail. Evidence used in the criminal cases had come through police infiltration of the Rockers, a puppet club controlled by the Angels. Two members of the Rockers were agents for the police before Operation Springtime was carried out, and another member turned informant months after the arrests were made. They all provided evidence that helped convict members of the Nomads chapter. On Oct. 31, 2002, the five other Hells Angels chapters in Quebec abolished their puppet clubs.

While the arrests and convictions wiped the Nomads chapter off the map of Quebec, five other Hells Angels chapters remained. And now, five years after the police operation, they control the same territory the Nomads chapter fought for so violently. When Operation Springtime was carried out, the gang had 106 full-fledged or "full-patch" members in Quebec . According to police estimates, the number has increased to 124. New members have come from other Hells Angels chapters and former rival gangs. For example, Salvatore Cazzetta, 51, a founding member of the Rock Machine who was incarcerated during the entire biker war between his gang and the Hells Angels, switched to the Hells Angels after being released from a penitentiary in 2004. Influential members of the Bandidos, the international biker gang that "patched over" the Rock Machine in 2000, have also defected.

Source: “Hells Angels resurface with reinforcements.” The Montreal Gazette. March 25, 2006, p. A1

A former member of the Quebec Nomads and a Montreal criminal lawyer are among 23 people facing charges after police busted a major Quebec cocaine trafficking operation in March. About 150 Surete du Quebec officers were involved in raids that resulted in the arrest of at least nine people. Dubbed Project Piranha, the two-year investigation targeted high-level drug traffickers, members of a network that police allege has ties to traditional organized crime and the Mafia.

During a total of 17 raids, police seized 48 kilos of cocaine, 22 kilos of cannabis, two kilos of hashish, 1,100 Viagra p ill s, four firearms, two stolen vehicles, three tractors and other heavy machinery valued at $200,000. They also collected $119,430 in Canadian and some $3,500 in American bills.

Police say Louis-Alain Dauphin and Michael Russell were prominent figures in the operation. Dauphin, 53, was arrested Monday at his Mirabel home. The RCMP arrested Russell, 60, yesterday in Vancouver. Among these charged were Salvatore Brunetti, 54, a member of the Quebec Nomads chapter of the Hells Angels, who had come to the Angels from the “Alliance” a loose amalgam of biker gangs that were battling the Angels over the Quebec drug trade. He was sentenced in 2002 to three years in prison for drug trafficking and other offences. Another of the accused is Louis Pasquin, a veteran criminal lawyer who was a defence lawyer at a Hells Angels mega trial in 2002.

Police allege the Hells Angels were using their Canada-wide connections to supply the drug trafficking network operating in the lower Laurentians. The drugs were supplied from British Columbia by Russell, who, according to Quebec police, has ties to the Hells Angels in British Columbia. Russell is alleged to have used international connections to smuggle drugs through the port of Vancouver. Drugs were packed into a private plane and flown to an airport in St. Hubert, Quebec. Russell was always in the plane with another pilot when the cross-country flights were made according to police.

Sources: “Lawyer, ex-biker arrested in major cocaine bust.” The Montreal Gazette. March 15, 2006, p. A10  // “Sherbrooke Hells among those arrested in major drug raid.” Sherbrooke Record. March 16, 2006, p. 3 // “Hells were flying in coke from B.C.” The Montreal Gazette. March 16, 2006, p. A5

On February 15, three full-patch members of the Hells Angels in Manitoba – including the gang's suspected president – were arrested and another 10 suspected associates have also been charged with drug offences. Police began working on the case in November 2004 and say since then they have seized more than seven kilograms of cocaine and three kilograms of methamphetamine. More than 150 Winnipeg police and RCMP officers carried out a series of pre-dawn raids at several locations. Those charged include Ernest John Dew, 46, president of the Manitoba chapter of the Hells Angels, and his wife, Vera Lynn Dew, 37; and Hells Angels members Ian Matthew Grant, 31, and Jeffrey David Peck, 43. The remaining nine are either associates of the Hells Angels or are linked to other drug gangs. All 13 accused are facing a variety of charges relating to drug trafficking, extortion and belonging to a criminal organization.

Source: “Undercover agent a player in Manitoba's drug scene.” Winnipeg Free Press. February 17, 2006, p. 1

Tamil Tigers

A report prepared by the New York-based organization Human Rights Watch accuses the World Tamil Movement (WTM) of being part of a "massive" Tamil Tigers fundraising effort in Canada that has involved extortion. The 45-page report, Funding the ‘Final War’: LTTE Intimidation and Extortion in the Tamil Diaspora, alleges that representatives of the Tamil Tigers and their supporters have been visiting family homes and businesses in the city's large Tamil-Canadian community since late 2005 where they demand up to $100,000 in “donations.” Those that refused to give have been threatened, warned they would be "dealt with" or "taught a lesson" and had their home vandalized.  But few have complained to police due to fears for their safety, the rights group says.

While some Tamil-Canadians willingly donate money, others do not support the Tigers or their violent methods but give anyway out of fear. Families in Toronto are typically asked for $2,500 to $5,000 each, although some have been told to give as much as $10,000, the report says. Business owners are being asked for $25,000 to $100,000. A Hindu temple in Toronto was approached several times in late 2005 and asked for $1-million, the report says. The money-collectors said they were working for Tamil Tigers intelligence chief Pottu Amman and told the money was needed because the Tigers were about to declare their independence from Sri Lanka.

According to the report, "The LTTE and groups linked to it such as the World Tamil Movement repeatedly call and visit Tamil families seeking funds. Some families have received as many as three visits in a single week. Fundraisers may refuse to leave the house without a pledge of money, and have told individuals who claim not to have funds available to borrow the money, to place contributions on their credit cards, or even to re-mortgage their homes."

The Tigers have been fighting the Sri Lankan government for more than two decades but in late 2005 and early 2006 they mounted what the report calls a massive fundraising drive in Canada and Europe to pay for a "final war" for a separate Tamil state.

While a press release issued by the Canadian Tamil Congress denies the allegations, the study is consistent with what has long been reported by the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, RCMP and Toronto police – that the Tamil Tigers sustain their civil war half a world away through an aggressive fundraising campaign in Tamil diaspora communities that relies partly on voluntary donations but also on intimidation, extortion, threats and other crimes.

Sources: Human Rights Watch. 2006. Funding the ‘Final War’: LTTE Intimidation and Extortion in the Tamil Diaspora. “Toronto Tamils told: Donate or be 'dealt with,' report says: World Tamil movement.” National Post. March 15, 2006, p. A11 // “Tamil leaders deny report; Say extortion allegation is unfounded Claim of guerrillas' fundraising in Toronto rejected.” Toronto Star. March 16, 2006, p. A7

Youth Gangs

A known member of a notorious Toronto gang – the Mount Olive Crips – has been arrested in Calgary, sparking fears the group is set to expand to this city. Richard Basil Baker, 30, was allegedly in possession of a loaded 9-mm pistol when Calgary police arrested him downtown on January 31. Baker, also known as Screech, was at one time a high-ranking member of the Mount Olive Crips, whose war with a rival west-end Toronto crew has been responsible for several gun murders dating back to the late 1990s. Officially, Calgary police say they have no specific intelligence about Toronto-based Crips trying to gain a foothold in this city. Nevertheless, simple economics make Calgary an attractive destination for Crips from Toronto; a rock of crack cocaine that sells for $10 in Toronto can still fetch $20 to $30 here.

Baker has been in custody in Calgary since Jan. 31, when two patrol officers tried to arrest five people they suspected of making a drug deal. Police say one of the suspects, Baker, bolted, starting a foot chase that ended five blocks later, when officers used a taser gun to subdue him. Police found a loaded, 9-mm Sig Sauer pistol discarded nearby. It had a bullet in the chamber and 11 more rounds in the magazine. Baker faces 10 charges in connection with the incident, including carrying a concealed weapon, possession of a loaded weapon, possession of a dangerous weapon and assault with intent to resist arrest.

Source: “Crips arrest raises fears: Calgary a draw to Toronto gang.” Calgary Herald. March 3, 2006, p. B1

Enforcement

Beginning in April, the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU) w ill be launched in Saskatchewan to focus on organized crime in that province. The CFSEU w ill include offices in Saskatoon, Regina and Prince Albert. Each unit will consist of local police service officers and RCMP members, charged with the mandate of "disrupting and dismantling" organized crime. Saskatoon's unit will consist of 10 people, Regina's 11 and Prince Albert will have eight. The officer in charge will alternate every three years between the Saskatoon and Regina police services and the RCMP. Cantafio will lead the first three years. The Unit is based on current CFSEU models operating in Ontario, Quebec, and B.C.

Source: “New initiatives to target gangs, organized crime.” The Star-Pheonix. February 17, 2006