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NRI gangs gain in strength and organization in Vancouver

Stepping up the ranks
CRIME I Indo-Canadian gangs gain in strength and organization even as the community unites against them

Vancouver, October 1, 2005
Kim Bolan
Vancouver Sun

Young Indo-Canadian gangsters are becoming increasingly sophisticated, and adopting names and logos like the infamous outlaw motorcycle clubs, police say.

A year ago police felt that Indo-Canadian gangs, despite dozens of murders, were less organized than traditional crime groups. But today there is a level of sophistication exhibited by these rival groups as they tussle over turf in B.C.'s lucrative drug trade.

The RCMP's annual report on organized crime this year ranks the Indo-Canadian groups third after outlaw bikers and Asians in terms of their strength and organization in B.C.'s hierarchy of criminal organizations.

And the killing of gang members has continued, with 10 murders since last fall of Indo-Canadians or their associates linked to gangs.

The latest victim, Hardev Singh Sidhu, 27, was found slumped in his car at 136th Street and Grosvenor Road in Surrey early Friday morning.

Dozens of other drive-by shootings have been investigated by police in Abbotsford, Surrey, Vancouver and elsewhere, including a second Surrey shooting early Friday outside a pub.

The most disturbing trend, say police, is the increased organization of some Indo-Canadian gangsters, such as a Vancouver-based group calling itself the Independent Soldiers, and battling rival groups involved in drug trafficking.

On Sept. 10, Vancouver police were called to the downtown nightclub Tonic where members of the Independent Soldiers and the Abbotsford-based UN gang attacked each other with bar stools and broken bottles.

Two men were taken to hospital with injuries, but did not cooperate with police. No charges were laid.

Independent Soldiers' kingpin Sukhvinder Singh (Bicky) Dosanjh was killed in a car accident at Marine and Main Street two weeks ago, leaving a void in the evolving organization with links going back to notorious cocaine dealer Bindy Johal.

Dosanjh, a graduate of John Oliver secondary, is the brother of Gerpal Singh (Paul) Dosanjh, who was gunned down in March 2004 at the Gourmet Castle Restaurant in the 2800-block of East Hastings and who was also involved in the drug trade.

Paul Dosanjh had survived being shot in the head in August 2003.

The Dosanjh brothers are first cousins of Ron and Jimmy Dosanjh, among the original group of Indo-Canadian gangsters who were taken out in separate hits in 1994 and 1995. The high-profile murders were believed to have been arranged by Bindy Johal, their former associate-turned-rival in the cocaine trafficking world.

Johal was then murdered on the dance floor of a Vancouver nightclub in December 1998 in a targeted hit arranged by his former associate Bal Buttar. Buttar remains a blind quadriplegic after an attempt on his life in August 2001 by members of his own crew.

Vancouver police staked out Bicky Dosanjh's funeral last Saturday at Hamilton Harron Mortuary on Fraser Street where dozens of young men with gang links came to pay their respects to the dead gangster and former high school basketball star.

Vancouver police Insp. Kash Heed said the trend to more organized Indo-Canadian crime groups is disturbing.

"You are starting to see them identifying themselves in a similar way to gangs in the United States," Heed said. "Now you have Indo-Canadian gang clothing with identifiable logos."

But police and Indo-Canadian community groups are also evolving in their response to the Indo-Canadian violence. Ten months ago, the B.C. government committed tens of millions of dollars to the new B.C. Integrated Gang Task Force, which is targeting the violence among young Indo-Canadian gangsters that has led to dozens of murders in the last decade.

Delta Supt. John Robin is the officer in charge of the task force, which has just reached its full staffing complement of 60.

"We've had unbelievable cooperation from all the departments and agencies to put this together," Robin said in an interview. "Everyone's aware that this is a long-term commitment."

Robin said the task force is putting its effort into targeting violent individuals in groups who are currently active.

"What our purpose is is to target those individuals who are extremely violent," he said, adding that some on the list may be suspects in unsolved murders. "It takes probably more resources than one single department or detachment could put together."

Robin said the Indo-Canadian gangsters do not follow the model of true organized criminals "and in some ways that makes them more dangerous."

The new task force is gathering and coordinating intelligence on the Indo-Canadian gangs better than before, Robin said.

"That is one of the things we are really working hard on," he said.

But they are also involved in major criminal investigations.

"We are just scratching the surface. We are in here for the long term and none of us expect to turn this around overnight."

There have been several key arrests both in B.C. and Washington state related to Indo-Canadian organized crime.

Last April and May, several alleged Indo-Canadian gangsters were arrested in two separate kidnapping and unlawful confinement cases and are now facing a series of charges.

And in the U.S., an alleged ecstasy dealer and would-be politician named Ravinder Kaur Shergill was arrested after the Drug Enforcement Agency taped her in an undercover sting operation.

One of the most high-profile arrests was of Vancouver lawyer Kuldip Singh Chaggar, who was convicted in Seattle last April of tampering with a witness in a drug case involving alleged Indo-Canadian crime figures who were caught in a cross-border trafficking case.

Chaggar is now serving a year in jail, although he is appealing his conviction.

RCMP Insp. Paul Nadeau, head of the regional drug section, said the Indo-Canadians are primarily specializing in the transport of marijuana, with so many in the community involved in the commercial trucking industry. He said the Indo-Canadians are contracting to other crime groups to deliver their product.

Nadeau said that the use of commercial trucks to transport pot to the U.S. is up about 400 per cent over the last three years

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