NEWS:Canada: Boom follows bust of gang

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Jyothi Kanics (jkanics@igc.apc.org)
Mon, 14 Dec 1998 15:17:20 -0800 (PST)


Boom follows bust of gang: Spectacular raid of alien-smugglers leads to
bonanza of new leads
Jake Rupert
The Ottawa Citizen, December 12, 1998

After basking in the media spotlight for two days, it was back to work
yesterday for authorities involved in the 16-month investigation and bust
of the largest human-smuggling ring in Canadian history.

In fact, the actual investigation may pale in comparison with the daunting
tasking of sorting out the flood of new information obtained during
interviews with 46 people who have been arrested and charged and the many
search warrants executed here and in the United States.

"We have at least another year of work, following up leads and trying to
figure out exactly who fit in where," said U.S. Immigration and
Naturalization assistant director Mike McLaughlin, co-ordinator of several
U.S. agencies involved in the probe.

"It's like a whole new case, and although we're not starting from zero, it
feels like it. We're getting a new look at the whole thing from the inside."

Mr. McLaughlin and the RCMP haven't ruled out charges against more people
connected to the ring that allegedly smuggled an estimated 4,000 people
from China's Fujian province to New York City via Canada over the two-year
period the ring is believed to have operated.

Each smuggled person was allegedly charged about $70,000 for their
sometimes harrowing trip, and, authorities say, members of the ring
pocketed an estimated $280 million in total from the operation.

Several organizations, including Canadian and American immigration
departments, the RCMP, Toronto's Asian crime unit, and the FBI took part in
the probe, which was launched after RCMP anti-smuggling officers in
Cornwall found eight illegal aliens in the back of a known booze-smuggler's
van during a routine traffic stop in July 1997.

During the probe, authorities said they found an extremely well organized
group with contacts in China. They said the group recruited people who
wanted to come to North America and sent them to Canada using many
different routes and providing them with visitor visas or phoney passports.

After landing, the aliens were allegedly taken to Toronto and kept at a
secure location until part of their payment was received, at which time
they were transported to Cornwall and into the U.S. through the St. Regis
Mohawk territory, considered a sovereign nation not subject to Canadian or
American laws by its people.

>From there, police said, the aliens were taken to New York City. Some were
held until the rest of the bill was paid. Others were given jobs and the
smugglers took a portion of their pay until the debt was paid off.

Once it was, the aliens were free to disappear into the Chinatowns of
various U.S. cities, officials said.

"We think we know where some of the aliens are, but most of them will be
pretty tough to find," Mr. McLaughlin said.

In Canada, the RCMP and other involved enforcement organizations are using
information obtained in the raids and searches as a window into the
little-known world of Asian crime gangs.

Most of the 10 people arrested in Ontario are of Asian descent and, along
with their associates in New York, allegedly belong to a cell of a crime
organization called the Big Circle Boys, which is based in Hong Kong.

Police in North America have had little success penetrating these
organizations and the opportunity to see how, at least, a small part of the
gang operated is considered somewhat of a coup.

But for Cornwall-based RCMP officers involved in the probe, human-smuggling
is just the latest twist in a long history and seemingly unlimited future
in illegal border crossing activity in the area.

"As long as people can make money doing it, it's going to be a fact of life
around here," Const. Kevin Sutherland said. "We're just trying to do our
best."


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