Blue Line

Edmonton police investigate extortions, arsons targeting South Asian community

January 18, 2024  By The Canadian Press

Jan. 18, 2024, Edmonton, Alta. – Police are investigating a string of “brazen” extortions targeting businesspeople in the Edmonton area’s South Asian community, in which properties have been torched and shot at.

Police said Thursday they’re investigating 27 events since October that they believe have been orchestrated from India, where people have demanded money from homebuilders in exchange for protection. Should those targeted not pay, police said their new home builds, show homes or related property are then burned.

Their investigation includes five extortions, 15 arsons and seven firearm offences.

“The amount of property damage as a result of the arsons and shootings is estimated to be at least $9 million,” Insp. Lance Parker said at a news conference Thursday. “At this time, we believe (it) has been committed by a group of local individuals being directed by a suspect in India.”


The latest shooting involved a home last week in the Cy Becker neighbourhood. Police released security footage that appears to show someone in a dark-coloured vehicle drive past a home and fire shots into it.

The home had children in it at the time, police said. The occupants of the home have no known involvement in criminal activity, they added.

Police are also investigating a house fire in Beaumont, Alta., south of Edmonton, that occurred earlier this week.

“There is absolutely a level of brazenness about it. It’s definitely concerning, given the fact that we’ve actually charged people,” Staff Sgt. David Paton said during Thursday’s news conference. “The investigation is just now really starting to take shape and really starting to get going, so we’ll see where that takes us in the near future.”

Police announced earlier this month that they had arrested and charged six young males with firearms and arson-related offences. One remains in custody and one has since fled the country, police said on Thursday.

At the time, police confirmed they were investigating at least 18 suspected cases of extortion. They said people would connect with business owners from the South Asian community using WhatsApp, an instant messaging service, to demand large sums of money. In some cases, they would appear to have knowledge of the victim’s personal information, such as family members, vehicles and lifestyle patterns, police have said.

Edmonton police have also said people have made follow-up demands for more money, leading to an escalation of violence and drive-by shootings.

Police said none of the shootings have been fatal, but a firefighter was injured while responding to one of the arsons.

Paton urged community members to come forward if they have been targeted or have information relating to the extortions.

“We would like to see more information coming from the community,” he said. “We understand why they would maybe be reluctant, but I think it’s important that they do come forward and they do present us with as much information as possible to assist us with this investigation.”

While there have been similar occurrences in British Columbia and Ontario, Parker said there is no evidence to suggest the Edmonton extortions are related to what is happening in other jurisdictions.

Mayors in B.C. and Ontario have called for the federal government to help create a multi-jurisdictional plan to combat what they say are rising extortion threats toward South Asian businesses.

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