SURREY SIX MURDER TRIAL STARTS
Red Scorpions gang members went to apartment 1505 of the Balmoral Towers at 9830 East Whalley Ring Road in Surrey on October 19, 2007, to kill a rival drug dealer Corey Lal because he had failed to pay $100,000 they had demanded from him for trafficking on their turf, and they killed five others to ensure that there would be no witnesses, the Crown told B.C. Supreme Court in October as the Surrey Six murder trial got underway.
Innocent victims Chris Mohan, 22, and Edward J. Schellenberg, 55, of Abbotsford and four other victims who police said led criminal lifestyles – brothers Corey Lal, 21, and Michael Lal, 26, and Edward Narong, 22, and Ryan Bartolomeo, 19, were killed execution-style.
Matthew James Johnson and Cody Rae Haevischer are charged with six counts of first-degree murder, while Quang Vinh Thang (Michael) Le is charged with one count of first-degree murder. They are all also charged with conspiracy to commit murder.
Co-accused Jamie Bacon will be tried separately. He is charged with first-degree murder in the death of Corey Lal and, along with Haevischer, Johnston and Le, conspiracy to commit murder in Lal’s death.
A fifth accused, Sophon Sek, is charged with manslaughter in the case and his next court appearance takes place in January 2014.
Johnson, Haevischer and Le all pleaded not guilty to each charge.
Crown counsel Mark Levitz told Justice Catherine Wedge – in the judge-alone trial that may last a year with more than 100 witnesses – that the murders were the result of rivalry between two drug gangs operating in the same area. One was operated by Lal and the other by Le and his Red Scorpions gang. The scene of the murders was a drug stash house for Lal’s gang.
Jamie Bacon, a leader of the Red Scorpions, demanded $100,000 from La and confiscated his gun. But when Lal failed to fork out the money by the deadline, Johnston, Haevischer and a third person, who can only be identified as Person X because of a publication ban, were sent to murder Lal to get rid of a rival and send a message that they weren’t to be challenged.
Levitz said the other five victims were killed so there would be no witnesses. Mohan lived in the building with his parents and Schellenberg, a gas fire repair worker, was working there and they were not associates of the other victims.
Levitz said the trial will see video surveillance, cellphone records that establish the movements of the accused before and after the murders and wiretap evidence. Court would hear that Johnston, Haevischer and Le admitted involvement in the murders.
Late in November, Le pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit murder and in December, B.C. Supreme Court Associate Justice Austin Cullen sentenced Le to 12 years in prison, which means that his term will end in three years and a month after double-time credit for pre-sentence custody since 2009. The Harper government has since done away with double-time credit.
SURREY MPS PRAISE FEDERAL ELECTORAL BOUNDARIES COMMISSION
The Federal Electoral Boundaries Commission concluded its work of redrawing riding borders and Surrey North MP Jasbir Sandhu told Asian Journal: “I think they made the right choices after hearing the community after their initial assessment.”
He said: “Originally they had come up with different ridings for Surrey and I think the community made a strong representation along with business community and individuals and myself. They listened to the community and they understood how the community was based in Surrey and taking historical growth [into consideration] in Surrey in different districts – Whalley, Newton, South Surrey, Guildford and Cloverdale.
“These are the five centres and they took that into account, making sure that communities weren’t split and this was done after the original maps joined a number of different communities together. But after hearing the members from various groups and others, they referred it back to having five community centres.”
Nina Grewal, MP for Fleetwood-Port Kells, said: “As Surrey grows, it’s important that we have even greater representation in Ottawa. … The BC Electoral Boundaries Commission had a tough job, to redraw the boundaries of a riding that had over 160,000 residents while respecting the wishes of all the communities involved. I think the new, reduced in size, Fleetwood-Port Kells is fair to all concerned.”
Jinny Sims, MP for Newton-North Delta, had told Asian Journal last January that there was a lot of concern in Surrey to keep Newton together and not separate it into two or three pieces.
She added: “And I think what [the Commission] have done is that they heard the community and the map pretty much reflects what they heard from Newton and what they heard from Whalley.”
There will be 42 ridings in B.C. – six more than what the province currently has. There will be 26 ridings in the Lower Mainland – five of them new. Vancouver Island will have seven ridings – one of them new. The Interior will retain its six ridings and the North will keep its three ridings.
After this redistribution, the number of seats in the House of Commons will increase to 338 from 308.
‘KING OF BHANGRA’ MALKIT SINGH IN SURREY
World famous ‘King of Bhangra’ Malkit Singh, who was in town for the official release of ‘Soundz of Mine’ album by local singer Luv Randhawa on Friday spoke to me about his life and passion for music.
Malkit Singh, MBE, is a British-based Punjabi bhangra singer. He was born and raised in Jalandhar district in Punjab. He moved to Birmingham in England in 1984. He is the first Punjabi singer to be awarded the Order of the British Empire by the Queen.
Malkit Singh is the biggest selling bhangra solo artist listed in the Guinness Book of World Records with sales of over 4.9 million records in his career so far.
Asian Journal’s Aradhna asked him: Tootak Tooktak Thootian (Hey Jamalo) and Gurh Nalo Ishq Mitha were the hits that changed the Punjabi music scene forever. Did you expect that?
Malkit Singh: Punjabi music was earlier limited to the villages and Punjabi community in particular. Singing is my passion and when I recorded these songs it never crossed my mind that they will be such huge hits. Yes, I liked the songs and hoped that listeners would appreciate the effort, but what I got in return was pure love. I am so grateful for that. The other songs in this album like Maawan Thandiyaan Chaawan were liked by everyone including the urban population of Punjab. I was taking my first steps in the music world and to get so much recognition for my work was a huge motivation. Earlier duet singing was a hit in Punjabi music world and at times the lyrics were coarse and very rustic but I tried to make music that was for everyone, especially the Punjabi population which had been moving to the cities in the early 80s’ and was still connected with their villages but felt a little shy of playing Punjabi music because they didn’t want to be ridiculed by their city friends as backward. I am very proud of the fact that I was one the singers who has been credited with bringing Punjabi folk music to the cities.
JASSI SIDHU MURDER CASE
B.C. Supreme Court Justice Gregory Fitch ruled that hearsay statements made by seven Canadian-based witnesses should be allowed in the extradition hearing for Malkit Kaur Sidhu and Surjit Singh Badesha of Maple Ridge, who are wanted in India in the brutal 2000 murder of Sidhu’s daughter, Jaswinder (Jassi) Kaur Sidhu, 25, in Punjab. Her family was against her marriage to a poor auto-rickshaw driver, Sukwinder (Mithu) Singh Sidhu, in Punjab.
On January 5, 2012, the B.C. Supreme Court issued arrest warrants under the Extradition Act against Malkit Sidhu and Jassi’s uncle Badesha, who come from a prominent blueberry farming family. Indian police allege that contract killers got the order to kill Jassi from Canada shortly after the girl had spoken to her mother on a cellphone following her abduction.
CIES AND UBC LAUNCH INTERNATIONAL PUNJABI LITERARY PRIZE
The Canada India Education Society (CIES) and the University of British Columbia (UBC) have partnered to present the Dhahan International Punjabi Literature Prize, to celebrate the rich history of the Punjabi language and living present of Punjabi language and literature.
The cash prize of $25,000 will be awarded annually to one ‘best book’ in either Gurmukhi or Shahmukhi scripts internationally.
Two runner-up prizes of $5,000 will be awarded, one for each script. Winners will be announced at an inaugural gala in October 2014 in Vancouver.
The Dhahan International Punjabi Literature Prize, established by Barj and Rita Dhahan, family and friends, was founded with the goal to recognize the universality of the Punjabi language, inspire leadership in Punjabi literature and build social bridges between Canada, India, Pakistan and other countries which have vibrant, dynamic and successful Punjabi speaking communities.
TANRAJ SOHAL WINS B.C. CHESS CHAMPIONSHIP
Tanraj Sohal, a 16-year-old high school student from Surrey, won the 98th B.C. Closed Chess Championship held in Vancouver. He is the youngest person ever to win this championship in its 98-year history. He is now the best chess player in B.C. regardless of age.
B.C. Closed Championship is the most prestigious BC chess tournament where the top eight players from the province are selected and invited to play in a round robin tournament.
Tanraj was also featured in the roundup last week.
TRUCK DRIVER SATWANT SINGH BAINS MURDERED
Truck driver Satwant Singh Bains, 35, was shot dead on October 25. Police said that at 5 a.m. Bains said good-bye to his wife and kids before heading off to work. He walked out his door, entered his vehicle and moments later was shot and killed while seated in his vehicle on the driveway. Bains did not possess a criminal record and he was not known to police.
Integrated Homicide Investigation Team Sgt. Jennifer Pound said: “Evidence to date suggests that this killing was not random and Mr. Bains, described as a family man, was a victim of a targeted shooting. The Integrated Homicide Investigation Team continues to look into the motive for this shooting.”
Witnesses described a white four-door sedan vehicle speed off westbound on 86 Avenue towards 152 Street.