Pubdate: Sat, 09 May 2015
Source: National Post (Canada)
Copyright: 2015 Canwest Publishing Inc.
Author: Kim Bolan
Page: A6


Hells Angels and others with criminal connections have a long history 
working at Canada's major ports, a Vancouver Sun investigation has found

More than two dozen of the longshoremen unloading container ships on 
the docks of Metro Vancouver are Hells Angels, their associates, 
other gangsters or people with serious criminal records, a Vancouver 
Sun investigation has found.

The infiltration of gangsters and criminals into the port workforce 
is perpetuated by a longtime employment practice that allows existing 
union members to nominate friends, relatives and associates when new 
jobs become available.

Police say organized crime maintains this foothold on the waterfront 
for strategic purposes - so drugs and other contraband can be 
smuggled in some of the more than 1.5 million containers that pass 
through the four container terminals at Port Metro Vancouver every year.

Just over three per cent of containers arriving here are checked by 
the Canada Border Services Agency.

"It is a concern to us. We feel that a lot of the illegal drugs that 
come into this country come in through our ports," said Det.-Staff. 
Sgt. Len Isnor, the country's top law enforcement expert on the Hells Angels.

Isnor, who works for the Ontario Provincial Police, has testified at 
several major B.C. cases involving the biker gang.

Isnor said the Hells Angels have maintained a foothold in Canada's 
three largest ports - Vancouver, Montreal and Halifax - for the past 30 years.

"So as far as the ports are concerned, it's the whole success of the 
Hells Angels."

While airports have tightened security in the post-9/11 world, Metro 
Vancouver docks remain relatively porous, allowing people linked to 
organized crime, and even some convicted of international drug 
smuggling, to work on the waterfront.

The Sun has identified at least six full-patch Hells Angels who are 
active members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union.

Some have worked on the docks for years, like Al DeBruyn, a senior 
White Rock Hells Angel who started in 1981 - two years before the HA 
was set up in B.C.

Other Hells Angels joined the longshoremen more recently. Rob Alvarez 
of the elite Nomads chapter and Kelowna Angel Damiano Dipopolo 
started on May 24, 2012. West Point Hells Angel Ryan Sept started 
just last year, nominated by another full-patch member of his chapter.

Bikers aren' t the only people with links to crime working on the waterfront.

Others who police have publicly identified as gangsters, such as Mani 
Buttar and Bobby Tajinder Gill, are also longshoremen, as are some of 
their associates.

Buttar has been a member of Local 502, a Vancouver local of the 
International Longshore and Warehouse Union, since 1998. The local 
provides hundreds of workers a day to Fraser Surrey docks and 
Deltaport. And Buttar, whose two brothers died in gangland shootings, 
is on his union's executive committee despite a lengthy criminal history.

Gill is in jail after police issued a warrant for him several months 
ago on some outstanding charges.

The Sun has documented 27 active longshoremen with gang or criminal 
links from various sources of information, including public records 
and union membership lists.

That number doesn't include the "inactive" members of the union who 
are also Hells Angels - East End president John Bryce, Nomads Angel 
Gino Zumpano, Haney member Vince Brienza, West Point member Larry 
Amero and former Vancouver president Norm Krogstad.

ILWU national president Mark Gordienko agreed to be interviewed for 
the Vancouver Sun series. But he cancelled without explanation the 
day before the interview. He also declined through a spokesman to 
answer written questions for the Sun.

The Hells Angels did not respond to emailed interview requests.

Police admit there's a serious problem when criminals and gangsters 
have the ability to move drugs and other contraband through Port 
Metro Vancouver.

A series of government and police reports about organized crime on 
the waterfront and obtained by the Sun show authorities have been 
documenting concerns for two decades.

"The presence of numerous members of organized crime groups (OCGs) as 
dockside employees of the Port of Vancouver, coupled with the ability 
to access the port by members of OCGs employed in the trucking 
industry creates a high-risk for smuggling at the port," says a 
September 2010 internal Border Services Agency report.

The only way someone can get hired as a longshoreman in British 
Columbia is by the ILWU putting their name forward.

Por t Me tro Vancouver then issues a basic port pass. A criminal 
record check is not required, yet the pass allows wide access to the 
tens of thousands of containers stacked behind locked gates in 
Vancouver, Surrey and Delta.

Port Metro vice-president Peter Xotta said he was unaware of how many 
port pass holders are Hells Angels or others with criminal links.

"We certainly don't have that level of detail," he said.

"My sense of it is it is much more difficult for this (criminal) 
activity to occur on the waterfront. That's not to say that there 
aren't elements or individuals on the waterfront and in other parts 
of working society in Vancouver that aren't involved in some sort of 
activity that could give rise to concern."

Andy Smith, president of the B.C. Maritime Employers Association, 
said his agency is aware of the Hells Angels and others with gang 
connections on the docks.

"Yes, we are aware of who they are. They make no secret of it," he said.

But he also said his association's role is to ensure longshore 
workers are properly trained, not worry about their criminal histories.

"It is not within my mandate," Smith said. "We are a service provider 
to the industry - primarily to labour relations and training and 
secondarily in terms of government relations and social outreach. In 
any of those arenas, we have yet to see a situation where someone's 
criminal associations or participation in the Hells Angels, or 
whatever, has been an issue."

Some of the thousands of dock workers in B.C. also possess a 
higher-security Transportation Security Clearance pass issued by 
Transport Canada that allows them inside restricted zones on the waterfront.

Workers are screened for links to organized crime and criminal 
records before those passes, known as TSC, are issued.

But Smith said the restricted zones at the port are small compared to 
the areas accessed with the general pass.

"If you are talking about access of workers to long rows of 
containers which are in lightly populated work areas day or night, 
the TSC doesn't come into it," he said.

Guy Morgan, director of security and screening programs for Transport 
Canada, wouldn't comment specifically on the Hells Angels or other 
criminals working on the waterfront. But he said his agency does 
screen several ways for links to organized crime before issuing the TSC passes.

He suggested the Hells Angels on the Sun's list don't have the 
high-security passes - though he wouldn't say so directly or comment 
on any individuals.

"If Transport Canada receives any information that an existing 
clearance holder poses a security threat, we act on it," Morgan said.

By contrast, airport workers who handle baggage and cargo "have to 
have the security clearance under the Transport Canada program," 
Vancouver Airport Authority spokesman Chris Devauld said.

Morgan said it's unfair to compare the two as there are also areas at 
the airport where workers don't need the high-security clearance.

"I think that the marine transportation security regulations have set 
out very robust security requirements for the vessels, the ports, the 
marine facilities and the purpose of those regulations is to enhance 
the international framework for the deterrence and prevention and 
detection of acts that may threaten security in the marine port," Morgan said.

"We are continuously reviewing and enhancing our marine security 
regime and that includes our security regulations, our standards, our 
procedures in order to maintain that security environment."

Senator Colin Kenny, who has been outspoken on national security 
issues, was in Vancouver last fall talking to Port Metro Vancouver 
officials about security.

He thinks more should be done to deal with organized crime on the 
waterfront, an issue that crops up every few years but never gets addressed.

But Kenny doesn't expect a clampdown on criminalized port workers any 
time soon, given the RCMP is reassigning hundreds of officers across 
the country to work on terrorism cases. Many of those resources have 
been taken from organized crime cases. That, said Kenny, is short-sighted.

"We have made the point consistently that if people from organized 
crime can get in, terrorists will follow," said Kenny, who sits on 
the Senate's National Security and Defence committee.

"Generally speaking, there is a huge lack of interest on the part of 
almost everybody."

Yet there has been two decades of damning documentation about the problem.

A 2012 Transport Canada obtained by the Sun under the Access to 
Information Act identified the potential "exploitation of the 
commercial marine transportation system to smuggle narcotics from the 
Americas to Canada's Pacific Coast."

Most of the report was censored for security reasons, including the 
executive summary.

But the section titles alone are revealing.

The section called "Methamphetamine and Precursor Chemicals" is three 
pages long - all blanked out.

It's followed by a section titled Drug Trafficking Organizations, 
about half of which has been removed.

Details of Mexican cartels, including the Sinaloa, Los Zetas, Knights 
Templar and the South Pacific Cartel were provided in the report 
between blanked out sections about "port seizures" and strategic implications.

The report acknowledges that Mexican cartels use ships to transport 
their drugs to Canada and elsewhere.

Those cartels already have connections in Vancouver, as revealed by 
the Sun in a recent series.

The 2010 CBSA report, also obtained under the Access to Information 
Act, said that while the Mafia and Hells Angels "have exerted the 
most significant criminal influence at major Canadian marine ports, 
many other international OCGs, including Asian, East Indian, Persian, 
Middle Eastern, Eastern European and local groups have developed a 
presence in Canada."

The report says the gangs use shipping containers to smuggle cocaine, 
dode (poppy powder), ephedrine, GHB, heroin, hashish, hashish oil, 
khat, marijuana, opium and precursor chemicals to make ecstasy and 
crystal meth.

"Although the number of seizures in the marine mode are low, relative 
to the air and land modes, the quantities seized in a given 
enforcement action are typically very high," the report says.

CBSA seizures at Port Metro Vancouver over the past five years prove 
that point. Between 2010 and 2014 more than half a tonne of cocaine 
was discovered by CBSA searches of containers arriving at Port Metro 
Vancouver. Almost two tonnes of the party drug ketamine and more than 
20,000 litres of liquid precursor chemicals used in the production of 
meth were also seized.

"Vancouver marine will continue to pose a high risk for the smuggling 
of precursor chemicals into Canada from China and India," the CBSA report says.

"However, Prince Rupert may increasingly become the port of entry for 
precursor chemical shipments due to expansion in marine container 
commerce and/or a deliberate effort by smugglers to direct shipments 
through Prince Rupert, in the hope of evading seizure of the shipments."

The CBSA clearly links the smuggling to the Hells Angels and other 
gangsters working at the port "in key positions - longshoremen, 
equipment operators, foremen and truck drivers."

"Joint forces operations by Canadian law enforcement agencies, which 
have included the CBSA, have succeeded in dismantling smuggling 
operations and temporarily disrupting the movement of drugs, 
cigarettes and other contraband. However since OCGs are adept at 
quickly reestablishing their presence at the ports, these successes 
are typically short-lived."

The 2010 report echoes two others prepared by police in the mid 1990s 
and obtained from Sun sources.

A 1995 report done by the Criminal Intelligence Section of B.C. says 
"Hells Angels have numerous members in the longshoremen's union, 
employed in a variety of port jobs. This has provided them with the 
direct means of transporting narcotics and other drugs internationally."

And it says B.C. Hells Angels have close connections to the Mafia, or 
"traditional organized crime."

Asked if criminals or Hells Angels should be working at the port at 
all, Xotta said: "It's a question for the RCMP and Transport Canada."

Smith doesn't see clamping down on bikers or other criminals on the 
docks as the solution to preventing illicit cargo from getting 
through the port.

"If there are methodologies by which to get product through the port 
in containers or otherwise - if somebody thinks, well, raising the 
bar for people to come and work here is going to slow that down - I 
don't think so. There are always vulnerable people," Smith said.

"There are always people who are ethically or morally challenged. And 
if it wasn't people with records or who are members of groups which 
are deemed to be not acceptable, they will always find people to do 
this work for them."
- ---
MAP posted-by: Jay Bergstrom