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B.C. gang conflict now international in scope


The latest killing of a B.C. gangster, in Thailand, highlights trend to B.C. gang members being ‘hit’ while abroad

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For years, local police have referred to a violent clash between rival criminals as the Lower Mainland gang conflict.

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But in reality, the war that involves gangs like the United Nations, the Red Scorpions, the Brothers Keepers and the Wolf Pack has extended beyond provincial boundaries.

And there is evidence of increasing international links.

On Feb. 5, former UN gangster Jimi Sandhu, who grew up in Abbotsford, was shot to death outside his villa on the Thai tourist island of Phuket. Two former members of the Canadian military have been identified as suspects by Thai police.

Jimi Singh Sandhu
Jimi Singh Sandhu PROVINCE

Sandhu had been travelling between Dubai and Southeast Asia since being deported to India in 2016 for “serious criminality.” In 2018, he was charged with operating a ketamine factory in Mumbai, but fled when released on bail.

He is not the first B.C. gangster to have been killed overseas.

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In 2017, UN gang-mate Jodh Manj was shot to death in Mexico City. Months earlier, rival Wolf Pack gangster Nabil Alkhalil gunned down in another suburb of the Mexican capital. And days before Alkhalil’s slaying, Hells Angels associate Guiseppe Bugge was fatally shot in a posh shopping centre in Guadalajara, Mexico.

There have been several other B.C. gangster murders in Mexico, Colombia and Argentina over the last decade. And others involved in this province’s criminal underworld have relocated overseas.

Sgt. Brenda Winpenny, of the Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit, said Friday that the anti-gang agency works with police across Canada, as well as internationally as local gangsters widen their geographic range.

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“Gang conflicts in B.C., and in Canada generally, are not restricted to municipal, provincial, or even national borders, given the propensity of those involved in gangs to travel abroad,” Winpenny said Friday.

CFSEU did three searches earlier this week in connection with its own investigation stemming from Sandhu’s murder. But Winpenny said she couldn’t comment on the case.

The Lower Mainland gang war stemmed from a local Abbotsford dispute that began in the city’s Townline Hill neighbourhood and involved about 40 youth linked to the drug trade. By 2015, Abbotsford Police warned the public about Sandhu, his associate Sunny Sidhu and their rival Gavinder Grewal, who went on to start the Brothers Keepers.

Two of the three are now dead — Grewal was killed in December 2017.

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Sidhu is spending most of his time in Dubai. His brother Navdeep, 24, and friend Harman Mangat, 22, were shot to death in Edmonton in January 2017.

Winpenny said the new name for the conflict came when the violence connected to Townline Hill spread to other Lower Mainland municipalities and beyond.

“We still keep calling it that, when in all reality, it isn’t just Lower Mainland. Now there are all these different connections throughout the world,” she said. “There are no boundaries.”

Dan Malo, a retired RCMP assistant commissioner, said Friday that B.C. gangs have always had international connections.”

“Organized crime from other countries have contacts and partners in B.C. because of its geography. It’s all about the distribution of drugs, money laundering and influence,” said Malo who retired as head of policing for the Lower Mainland. “They need the product to feed the insatiable appetite of drug users in B.C.”

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Both Winpenny and Malo said that mid-level B.C. gangs have tried to mimic the Hells Angels and establish their own international connections. The HA has chapters all over the world. And B.C. bikers have links to some of the province’s newer gangs like the Brothers Keepers and the Wolf Pack.

When the less-experienced gangsters go abroad hoping to broker bigger drug deals at better prices, they don’t really know the history of those they’re meeting, Malo said. They could be connecting to someone associated to their own rivals. Or even an informant or an undercover police officer.

“As soon as they get on a plane and go somewhere else, those players — they’re at a disadvantage. They’re playing in somebody else’s backyard,” Malo said. “You get a Lower Mainland guy trying to orchestrate something in Mexico or Thailand, you’re now way more vulnerable than if you were in your backyard.”

kbolan@postmedia.com

Twitter.com/kbolan


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