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B.C. police announce dismantling of drug-making and distribution ring with 8 arrests

SURREY, B.C. — Police in British Columbia say they have dismantled a "significant, sophisticated" criminal organization involved in manufacturing and distributing fentanyl-laced counterfeit pharmaceuticals.

Mounties say eight men from the Metro Vancouver communities of Surrey, Richmond and Delta have been arrested, many of them with links to organized crime.

Police say one of the suspects, 32-year-old Michael Johal of Delta, was later alleged to be connected to a "gang-related murder plot," setting off a parallel investigation by homicide detectives and a charge of conspiracy to commit murder.

In a separate statement, homicide investigators say Johal was arrested in Delta on Wednesday without incident.

Investigators say he is the suspect in the conspiracy surrounding a fatal shooting in Burnaby last September, where 29-year-old Gagandeep Sandhu of Abbotsford was gunned down in an underground parkade.

The Public Safety Ministry says the drug ring investigation by the RCMP's organized crime unit, the Integrated Homicide Investigation Team and Abbotsford police led to the seizure of 356,000 counterfeit pills and 168 kilograms of chemicals used for making the pills.

Police say they also seized four illegal firearms and more than 1,500 rounds of ammunition.

B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth says in a statement that the seizure and arrests have "kept millions of potentially lethal doses of toxic drugs" from reaching communities, while also disrupting violent gang conflicts in the province.

"Gangs and organized crime are fuelling the toxic-drug crisis, killing thousands of British Columbians every year and hurting communities across our province," Farnworth says. "This is a problem that crosses borders within Canada and across the world, and we are determined to do what it takes to stop it."

RCMP Chief Superintendent David Teboul says police are aware of the public's concerns about gun violence after at least two shootings that appeared to be targeted in Metro Vancouver this month, but the drug bust is a major step forward in their efforts to combat such crimes.

"These are the types of targets that the federal policing program is focused on, and these are the results that we've worked hard over many months … to produce."

The latest shooting in Metro Vancouver happened Thursday, when four men were injured in a residential neighbourhood in White Rock in an incident that may have involved automatic weapons, based on videos posted on social media.

Another shooting took place on Feb. 1, when a home in Surrey was targeted but no one was injured. Two teenagers have been charged related to that incident.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Feb. 23, 2024.

The Canadian Press