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Indo-Canadian says police wrongly portraying him as 'high-level' gangster: Report

IANS | February 19, 2024 10:26 AM

TORONTO: An Indian-origin man who was arrested and recently charged with extortion threats targeting South Asian businesses in Canada, has claimed his innocence, saying police are wrongly portraying him as a high-level gangster.

Arundeep Thind, 39, was among five people of Punjab origin whose arrest was announced by Peel Regional Police's extortion taskforce on February 8 in connection with a laundry list of offences, including extortion, possession of firearms and fraud.

Thind, charged with one count of extortion relating to an alleged incident on January 26, is out on bail after spending two weeks in jail, and has reached out to the Canadian media saying he is not a "criminal".

In an interview with CTV News, Thind, a music producer, said: "I have family too. I have kids too. My kids are crying, 'Daddy's not a criminal.' You guys (the media and police) showed (my photo) that I'm a criminal. I'm not."

With concerns being raised over an "alarming" escalation of extortion threats against Indian and South Asian business communities, Thind told the news outlet that he has never been involved in organised crime and extortion.

Asserting that he is a "victim" of these threats instead, Thind said days before his arrest, his friend -- a restaurant owner in Brampton who was targeted by the extortionists -- gave Thind the phone number and asked him to call the people harassing him.

He spoke to the person on the phone who coerced him into going to a car dealership to request an extortion payment on their behalf, Thind told the news channel.

At the dealership, he simply handed a phone over to the owner of the car company.

"I told them, 'I want nothing more to do with this. You guys speak to each other and leave me out of it, '" he said.

It was then that the police arrived and arrested him, Thind said.

On being asked why he posted a series of photos and videos on his social media holding a gun, Thind told the channel that the picture was taken years ago while filming a music video and that "the gun wasn't even real".

While he said that he has never been a part of organised crime or extortion in the country, he admitted to a domestic incident charg

However, Thind believes police are wrongly painting him as a "high-level gangster", and are using his mugshot.

In addition, Thind said that he has not met and is not connected to the other four people charged by Peel Police, namely Gagan Ajit Singh, Anmoldeep Singh, Hashmeet Kaur and Lymanjot Kaur.

While Thind is yet to be tried in a court of law, Brampton City Councillor Gurpartap Singh Toor told CTV that Thind's release isn't sitting well with his community.

Peel Regional Police (PRP) Chief Nishan Duraiappah had said in a statement that "there's a complex ecosystem of people involved" in these crimes.

PRP's taskforce said 29 cases of extortion are currently under investigation and of these, nine incidents have involved shootings at local businesses, with multiple bullets being fired.

The businesses being targeted are South Asian-owned restaurants, bakeries, trucking and transport companies, independent used car dealerships, and jewellery stores.

Speaking about their modus operandi, police said the victims are contacted via phone or social media and threatened to pay in cash or transfer money -- either in Indian or Canadian currency.

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