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B.C. police arrest 8 men, seize 356,000 counterfeit pills in fentanyl bust

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SURREY, B.C. -

Gangs, guns, drugs and a plot for murder.

It might read like fiction, but according to police, it’s anything but.

Police in British Columbia said Friday they have dismantled a “significant, sophisticated” criminal organization involved in manufacturing and distributing fentanyl-laced counterfeit pharmaceuticals.

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

Police said 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 said Johal was arrested in Delta on Wednesday without incident.

Investigators said 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.

At a news conference in Abbotsford, police there said they were also part of the complex investigation by a number of agencies. Officers said they uncovered a plot by gang members to carry out hits on members of a rival gang.

“Investigators secured evidence that Gavinder Siekham was conspiring with Anmol Sandhu and Navdeep Dhaliwal to murder rival gang members who are all active within the ongoing and brutal B.C. gang conflict,” said Abbotsford Police Department Chief Const. Colin Watson.

Abbotsford police say "Project High Table" was triggered by an investigation into a drug case.

“These investigations were run independent of one another, but were all aimed at increasing public safety,” said Staff Sgt. Alex Wood.

The Public Safety Ministry said 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.

Seized fentanyl is displayed during a news conference at B.C. RCMP Divisional Headquarters in Surrey on Feb. 23, 2024. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/Tijana Martin)

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

B.C. Solicitor General Mike Farnworth said 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 fueling the toxic-drug crisis, killing thousands of British Columbians every year and hurting communities across our province,” Farnworth said. “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 said 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,” Teboul said.

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.

“What we saw last night in White Rock was absolutely shocking and appalling, but police are going to get these individuals,” said Farnworth.

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

With files from CTV News Vancouver's Michele Brunoro 

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