Extortions Targeting South Asian Home Builders In Edmonton Orchestrated From India, Police Say | CBC News


Edmonton police say members of the local South Asian community have been targeted in 27 related extortion events since October. 

Anyone who has been targeted or has information asked to come forward

Paige Parsons · CBC News

· Posted: Jan 18, 2024 11:33 AM EST | Last Updated: 8 hours ago

Fire crews were called to a fire inside a home under construction in west Edmonton on Jan. 8. Police say the case is believed to be linked to a known extortion scheme in the city. (David Bajer/CBC)A criminal network in India is behind a series of extortions targeting home builders in Edmonton’s South Asian community, police said Thursday.

Investigators say 27 events — five extortions, 15 arsons, and seven firearms offences — are linked to a scheme orchestrated in India and executed by people in Edmonton.

Six young men have been arrested and charged in connection to the series, but Edmonton Police Service Staff Sgt. Dave Paton confirmed Thursday that one of those suspects has since fled the country.

The extortion efforts are happening over WhatsApp, Paton told a news conference.

“Typically our victims receive WhatsApp communication, and then from there, there’s a request that comes along with that for compensation to allow those victims to remain safe,” he said.

He said the demands are for “significant” amounts of money, but declined to say how much. Many of the victims are home builders, but Paton also declined to say how many people or companies have been targeted. 

“The people perpetrating these crimes view them as being affluent and able to provide funds,” Paton said.

Police have previously said victims are from the local South Asian community. Paton said most of the people being targeted are of Indian origin.

EPS working with other police agenciesEdmonton police are collaborating with several police agencies across the country on the investigation, but Paton said investigators don’t believe there is a direct connection to similar extortion incidents in Ontario and British Columbia.

Just north of Toronto, Peel Regional Police launched their own investigative task force last month to look at a “disturbing trend” of extortion attempts “primarily targeted towards members of our South Asian business community.”

RCMP in Surrey, B.C., also issued a statement in November about extortion “targeting business owners throughout the Lower Mainland” and asked any alleged targets to come forward.

WATCH | Extortion scheme targets South Asian home builders:

Police say Edmonton area extortions targeting home builders orchestrated from IndiaEdmonton police are investigating 27 events in an ongoing extortion, arson and firearms series affecting the South Asian community in the region. An estimated $9 million in property damage has been reported from the arson and shootings.

Edmonton police announced the arrest of six suspects in early January, but extortion events have continued.

Investigators say recent incidents include a house fire in Beaumont on Tuesday and a drive-by shooting at a home in the Cy Becker neighbourhood in northeast Edmonton on Jan. 10.

In a news release Thursday, police said no injuries have been reported as a result of the shootings, but a firefighter was injured in one of the arsons.

EPS is encouraging anyone who has received threats — including those who have paid the demand — or anyone with information about the series of crime to contact investigators.

Paton said a town hall with the South Asian community and Edmonton police is being organized.

WATCH | Police probe extortion threats to South Asian communities: 

Extortion ring targets South Asian businesses across Canada, police sayThere are growing concerns about reports of South Asian businesses being targeted with violence and extortion across the country. Police and political officials in Ontario, Alberta and B.C., say they’re investigating similar acts, while Edmonton police say incidents in their city have been orchestrated by a criminal network in India.

Puneet Manchanda, president of the Council of India Societies of Edmonton, called the targeted attacks shocking, and said they’re not something one would expect to happen in Canada.

“When situations like this arise, it certainly is off the normal course that you have in everyday life, and incidents like these suddenly shake you up — not just as people who are getting these [threats], but also as a community,” he told CBC News Thursday. 

Manchanda trusts that police are on the right track with the investigation, he said, and he encourages anyone who has received a threat, or who has been extorted, to come forward and speak with police.

“We have to stand united against these kind of activities,” he said.

“The more united we are, the more strength we have.”

The Canadian Home Builders’ Association – Edmonton Region is also encouraging any members who’ve been targeted to report the incident to police immediately.

The association declined an interview request, but it shared a notice sent to member which advised home builders to review and reinforce on-site security measures, and to keep an eye out for unfamiliar vehicles or people near construction sites.


Paige Parsons reports on justice issues, courts and crime, with a special focus on public safety. Send Paige a story tip at paige.parsons@cbc.ca.

Follow Paige Parsons on TwitterWith files from Madeline Smith, Camille Pauvarel

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