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Organized Crime Reaching Into B.c. Government, Expert Warned

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VANCOUVER - The head of B.C.'s Organized Crime Agency warned Liberal MLAs
last fall that organized crime has its tentacles into all of society,
including police and ''government staff.''

''When I put government staff, I'm talking of people that are in positions
of supplying information,'' David Douglas told the B.C. legislature's
standing committee on Crown corporations. ''Something as simple as targeting
somebody who works in the motor vehicle branch who can supply up-to-date
information on the addresses and vehicles. That sort of thing. That's the
sort of people they go after -- information base-type people.''

Mr. Douglas, chief officer of the integrated special police unit that deals
with organized crime, told 11 Liberal MLAs about the increasing threat
facing British Columbia and Canada from ''the world's fastest-growing
industry.''

Mr. Douglas's briefing was given on Oct. 8, 2003 -- less than three months
before police would raid the British Columbia legislature building in
connection with an investigation involving organized crime, money laundering
and cross-border drug trafficking.

The offices of two Indo-Canadian ministerial aides, who helped sign up
thousands of new federal Liberal memberships, were the targets of the police
searches.

Mr. Douglas told the MLAs on the committee that organized crime wants to
take advantage of the celebrity status of high-profile people, including
politicians.

''There are lots of examples of this. David Peterson, who is the past
premier of Ontario, was on the board of directors of YBM Magnex, a Russian
organized crime stock market play that ended up being investigated in the
United States,'' he said.

He also made repeated references to Indo-Canadian gangs, as well as Asian,
Eastern European and such biker gangs as the Hells Angels.

He spoke about money laundering and the cross-border British Columbia
marijuana trade -- both things that police have said are part of the
investigation that led to the search of legislative offices.

Mr. Douglas was clearly presenting an overview of the problems faced by his
agency and others in the country battling organized crime.

Seventy-five per cent of organized crime in British Columbia is
drug-related, he said.

''Now we have poly-drug traffickers. No longer is a person a cocaine
trafficker. He's a cocaine trafficker, a heroin trafficker, a marijuana
trafficker, an ecstasy trafficker, an LSD trafficker, a methamphetamine
trafficker. They've all fused together. They are sharing their contacts.''

Mr. Douglas said there is increasing co-operation between criminal groups
who used to battle each other.

''They're run like corporations because they see the benefit of cooperation.
They share their expertise. They share their contacts. They have created
these non-traditional alliances,'' he said.

And there is increasing violence as organized crime expands in British
Columbia and elsewhere.

He cited one incident related to a biker group where ''they stabbed this
person multiple, multiple times. They could have killed him if they wanted
to; they didn't want to. They stabbed him multiple times in the body and the
head during an extortion.''

Mr. Douglas said the increase in violence is a ''huge public safety issue.''

''Shootings on the streets. Shootings in clubs. We have the intimidation of
the courts, the police, the media and the judicial system,'' he said.

The main motive behind organized criminal groups is ''profit and power,'' he
said, citing the fact that the estimated net wealth of Quebec Hells Angels
boss Maurice ''Mom'' Boucher is more than $250-million.

''Money equals power and that's the power to buy violence, to intimidate, to
corrupt,'' he said.

''Money laundering is the fuel that actually funds all kind of other
criminal activities.''

Mr. Douglas said the face of organized crime has changed dramatically in the
past decade ''and it has created unprecedented challenges for law
enforcement, not only in this country, but around the world.''

Organized criminal groups have followed the economic trend to globalization,
meaning there has been a fusion of criminal groups who increasingly use
technology and are multi-commodity.

Gerry Stearns, who works with Mr. Douglas at the Organized Crime Agency,
explained how closely the agency works with other British Columbia and
Canadian police forces, as well as U.S. agencies.


Source: National Post (Canada)
Webpage:
http://www.canada.com/national/nationalpost/news/story.html?id=0dffdbf0-29b2
- -43a8-b350-f196ca28b046
Copyright: 2004 Southam Inc.
Contact: letters@nationalpost.com
Website: National Post