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15 Indo-Canadians arrested in auto theft ring, stolen goods worth $9 mn recovered (Lead)

IANS | July 23, 2023 03:25 PM

TORONTO: Canadian police have arrested 15 Indian-origin men and laid 73 charges against them in an alleged organised auto theft ring, while recovering stolen goods worth more than 9 million dollars.

Dubbed Project Big Rig, a joint task force was formed in March this year to investigate a series of tractor trailer and cargo thefts in Peel and across the Greater Toronto Area, the Peels Regional Police said in a statement on Wednesday.

The investigation led to the recovery of 28 containers of stolen cargo valued at $6.99 million. An additional 28 stolen tractors and trailers valued at $2.25 million were recovered, taking the total value of recovery to $9.24 million.

Addressing a news conference on Wednesday, Peel Regional Police Deputy Chief Nick Milinovich said that estimated $1.8 billion worth of goods travel through the Peel region every day, making it the largest cargo hub in Canada.

"Often we are seeing that the proceeds of cargo theft and auto theft are used to fuel and fund organised crime... This often involves drugs and guns that are then directed towards our communities. The recovered cargo and vehicles through this investigation have removed millions of dollars out of the hands of organised crime, ” Milinovich said.

Detective Mark Haywood from the Peel police commercial and auto crime unit said the suspects stole products by cutting through the fences of logistic facilities as well as stealing cargo loads left parked on the roadway. The stolen property was then sold through a variety of channels, including flea markets, other stores and people acquiring the products without knowing that it was stolen, The Toronto Star reported.

The 73 charges against 15 men, in the age groups of 23 to 58 years, include possession of property obtained by crime, trafficking in stolen goods, theft of motor vehicles, break and enter, breach of probation and failure to comply with release orders.

The suspects were identified as Balkar Singh, 42; Ajay Ajay, 26; Manjeet Padda, 40; Jagjeevan Singh, 25; Amandeep Baidwan, 41, Karamshand Singh, 58; Jasvinder Atwal, 45; Lakhvir Singh, 45; Jagpal Singh, 34; Upkaran Sandhu, 31; Sukhvinder Singh, 44; Kulvir Bains, 39; Banishidar Lalsaran, 39; Shobit Verma, 23, and Sukhninder Dhillon, 34.

Police said that more joint-force operations like Project Big Rig will be necessary to combat this type of organised crime, operating across jurisdictional lines.

"Project Big Rig is an example of our efforts to hold the individuals accountable who victimise our communities and residents. Let this be a reminder to all the criminal networks that we will continue to disrupt criminality of any kind, " Milinovich said.

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