Pubdate: Thu, 22 Nov 2007
Source: Asian Pacific Post, The (CN BC)
Copyright: 2007 The Asian Pacific Post.
Bookmark: (Marijuana - Canada)


Scores of Vietnamese "family units" using fear, trust and relatives
have taken a stranglehold on the multi-billion dollar illegal B.C. bud
trade in Canada.

The operations, which revolve around how debts are repaid and secrets
kept, are primarily organized through family ties and are dotted
across the country.

Det. Jim Fisher, the Vancouver Police Department's intelligence
coordinator for Asian crime said 95 per cent of grow-ops raided by
police in the Vancouver area are operated by Vietnamese groups.

He said the groups are structured around family units, range in size
from four people to as many as 100 and co-operate with one another to
make money.

Testifying in Halifax at the sentencing hearing of a Vancouver man
convicted of marijuana production and possession for the purpose of
trafficking, Fisher, one of Canada's leading experts on Asian
organized crime said: "Vietnamese groups are the largest producer of
marijuana in the country."

Tuan Anh Nguyen, 43, of Vancouver was one of 12 people arrested after
October 2004 drug busts in the Halifax and Truro areas. Police raided
20 sites and seized 4,000 marijuana plants, cash, growing equipment
and 10 vehicles.

Operations such as these are treated as businesses and records are
kept "rather meticulously." There is a "tremendous profit" in these
grow operations and expansion across the country has become
inevitable, the police officer said.

Fisher also described the inner workings of the grow operations. In
many cases, "crop sitters" are paid a salary to tend to the plants.

Others deal with readying marijuana for smuggling, packaging it in an
attempt to hide the drug from police. In some operations, there are
even people employed as security to protect the crop, local media
quoted him as saying.

While there is no central hierarchy that governs Vietnamese organized
crime, groups do have business relationships with other criminal

Vietnamese grow-ops have sprung up in the Edmonton, Calgary,
Saskatoon, Winnipeg, Toronto and Montreal areas, Fisher said.

Fisher said some of the challenges for police in tackling Vietnamese
gangs include cultural and language issues. He said there are also
problems of impersonation, where those involved change names, or claim
they are someone different.

A Vietnamese-Canadian community leader said there is a lot of talk
about Vietnamese families involved in marijuana operations.

"Many of them feel this is the easy way to make money.they have
language problems and cannot get high paying jobs and they go to do
this because of the easy cash," he said.

"But we have to be careful not to say all Vietnamese people are
involved in the drug trade," he said.

B.C.'s annual marijuana crop, sold at street level, is worth over $7
billion, according to a study called Marijuana Growth in British
Columbia by The Fraser Institute. And it is estimated that there are
roughly 17,500 marijuana grow-ops in B.C.

Police agencies destroy nearly 3,000 marijuana grow-ops a year in
B.C., but the industry is so profitable that producers are prepared to
take the criminal risk.

The increased involvement of Vietnamese family groups in this illicit
trade is also being recorded by a variety of other agencies.

One B.C. police study showed that during 1997, the number of
Vietnamese suspects involved in marijuana growing operations rose from
2% to 36%, representing a 26% increase.

Surrey's Electrical and Fire Safety Inspection team, also reports
finding people of Vietnamese descent at most of the grow operations it

As well, Citizenship and Immigration Canada Intelligence has reported
that Vietnamese people from Europe and Australia are being recruited
to be crop-sitters (to monitor grow operations) and to learn how to
grow marijuana. Police in the U.K. said 75 per cent of the marijuana
factories they are busting are run by Vietnamese gangs.

"These gangs are bringing organized crime to the suburbs and the
problem is getting worse," warned Chief Superintendent Jon House, of
the South Yorkshire Police.

Properties in the suburbs and shires are usually bigger than flats and
terraces in the city and bigger properties result in bigger profits.

The grow-ops being taken down in residential streets in Hampshire,
Wiltshire, Northamptonshire, the Peak District, and Iver Heath in
Buckinghamshire all operate akin to those in Vancouver.

The analysis of nationwide police raids - 802 in London alone between
2005 and 2006 - showed around "two thirds to three quarters" of
cannabis factories are run by Vietnamese gangs.

Quoting police the Daily Mail said the cannabis criminal chain
invariably leads to Canada first, not Vietnam.

"The methods used back in Canada are now being replicated here," the
paper said.

In Australia, police said that their latest criminal intelligence
suggests Australian-based Vietnamese drug dealers have traveled to
Canada to learn how to cultivate "a new brand of highly addictive
cannabis." They are expected to use the knowledge to grow and sell it
in Australia.

Calling the high-potency B.C. Bud "super dope", the threat by the
Canadian-based Vietnamese gangs was revealed in the Australian Crime
Commission's annual Illicit Drug report. The Asian Pacific Post
reported in September that competing Canadian-based Asian organized
crime syndicates were setting up elaborate marijuana grow-ops in
Southern California, selling highly potent "B.C. Bud" for up to $6,000
a pound.

The clandestine setups - many in posh neighbourhoods, including the
Inland Valley of San Bernardino County - are similar to those found in
B.C., investigators said. Drug-enforcement officials in the U.S. say
they're seeing a deadly trend as B.C. bud makes its way into their

In July, two people-Linda Nguyen, 20, and Kevin Meas, 23-were fatally
shot in a home that had 400 marijuana plants outside Seattle.

The Everett operation, which had been under surveillance by drug
authorities since June, was believed to be part of a thriving
Seattle-area network of indoor marijuana operations run by Vietnamese
growers, drug officials said. 
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