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Contract Killings


Thursday, 6 March 2008

Outsourced Killings Murder inc in the Punjab Doaba belt

The most infamous of the Canadian cases involves Jaswinder Kaur Sidhu, a British Columbia beautician who was murdered by contract killers hired by her family after she secretly married a poor man they did not approve of. Indian police have been trying since 2000 to arrest the victim’s mother and uncle, whom they allege were the masterminds.Here are some of the other contract murder cases involving Canadian NRIs in India:
In November 2005, police allege that Vancouver businessman Bachan Singh Kingra was hacked to death by two hired assassins. The killers were allegedly hired by his oldest daughter, Balwinder Kaur, who was irked by her 64-year-old father’s plan to get a new bride, have a son and give him the family land over her.
In July 2007, Indian police arrested Calgary resident Jagtar Singh Mallhi, 32, who had orchestrated a fake car crash with the help of hired killers to murder his wife. He was allegedly upset that his wife would not consent to his illiterate cousin getting married to her university-educated sister.
In August 2003, Canadian doctor Asha Goel was the victim of a brutal beating death in Mumbai, India. There had been a rift among her siblings over a multi-million-dollar inheritance. Dr. Goel, 62, was chief obstetrician at the Headwaters Health Centre in Orangeville, Ontario.
In January 2008, Indian police alleged that a Surrey family hired a group of contract killers for about C$3,000 to kill Ranphool Singh of Mundiya village after he failed to come up with the promised Rs30 lakh rupees (C$76,000) dowry for his daughter. Police arrested the contract killers while they were on their way to commit the murder.

When murder is cheaper and less fraught with risk elsewhere, what's the logical thing to do? Outsource it! And some NRIs are doing just that. Be it a distant relative who has seized ancestral property or a recalcitrant daughter who has besmirched the family name by marrying beneath her, the 'final solution' lies at home. Conspiracies are hatched abroad but the back office is invariably Punjab where an obliging friend or cousin can arrange a hired gun. Deed done and scores settled, the getaway is just a flight away. Twenty-five-year-old Jasbir Singh fell victim to just such a long-distance plot allegedly hatched by his spurned Canadian lover. In Punjab to get married to another girl, Jasbir never made it to his wedding which was fixed for Valentine's Day. The day before the marriage he was shot dead by assailants in Nihalsinghwala village of Moga district. His cousin Harpreet, who was with him in the Tata Sumo, was also killed. Police suspect that the attack was the handiwork of the NRI's jilted lover Amanpal in collusion with her brother Gursewak who hired contract killers. Gursewak, who had worked with Jasbir in Canada, was seen in the area with some men the day after the murder. ''We have registered a case against Gursewak and Amanpal on the basis of a complaint by the victims' family. They have alleged that Amanpal was putting pressure on Jasbir to marry her but he was not willing to do so as he suspected her of infidelity,'' says Moga SSP Ashok Bath. Gursewak is suspected to have fled back to Canada. In another case, an enraged matriarch in the UK orchestrated the death of her 26-year-old daughter-in-law Surjit Kaur Athwal for announcing that she wanted a divorce. Determined not to let Surjit 'disgrace' the family name, Bachan Athwal persuaded her to go to Punjab on the pretext of a family wedding in December 1998. Surjit disappeared without a trace but Bachan boasted to relatives that she had arranged for her to be strangled and thrown into a river. Bachan and her son Sukhdave, Surjit's husband, nearly got away with murder but eventually a family member went to the police. Bachan and her son were both convicted in Britain but Surjit's brother Jagadeesh Singh is still fighting for justice as his sister's killers in India roam free. ''NRIs think they can kill with ease and impunity on their home turf. They shouldn't be allowed to get away with it,'' says Jagadeesh, who lives in London. Greater cooperation between the police of UK and India would ensure that killers are brought to book, he says.

Jasbir and Surjit are not isolated cases. In the last two years, there have been over a dozen contract killings involving NRIs in Punjab. But police are convinced that justice eventually does take its course despite procedural delays in getting suspects extradited. ''NRIs sitting abroad think that they can get away with it by getting the crime committed in Punjab through contract killers,'' says Jalandhar range deputy inspector-general Narinder Pal Singh. ''But they are wrong.'' Most contract killers are small-time criminals who can be paid as much as Rs 50 lakh. The trend of contract killing itself has been on the rise in Punjab over the last decade. Police officials say it took root during the days of terrorism when foreign-based pro-Khalistan outfits discreetly carried out contract killings and protection rackets for NRIs through their affiliate militant gangs in Punjab. But the crimes went unnoticed as every killing then was passed off as a terrorist act.
But peace blew the lid off these supari killings. Most of the recent cases have occurred in Punjab's Doaba belt - the land between the Sutlej and Beas comprising the districts of Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Nawanshahr. It's an area that boasts six million NRIs - equal to the population of New Zealand - and which, not surprisingly, has witnessed an unprecedented property boom. As land prices go up, so do feuds. ''Around 90% of NRI complaints that come to us relate to property,'' says Sacha Singh Mast, executive director of NRI Sabha.
During the recent NRI Sammelan, the state government promised to set up a fast-track court and six police stations to deal exclusively with complaints of NRIs. These measures will go quite a way in helping expats deal with defaulting tenants and land-grabbing relatives. For some others seeking a short-cut out of long legal disputes, murder via remote control may still be an option.The murder is the latest in a string of contract killings of Indo-Canadians and other Non-Resident Indians (NRIs) in Punjab.In many of the cases, poorly paid Indian policemen play a role in the killings or help cover-up evidence after getting paid in overseas dollars.
In most cases, broken marriages, illicit affairs and property disputes are the main reasons why NRIs are ordering people killed. The killings are carried out in Punjab and not in the adopted countries of these NRIs because of the lax laws in India, reports .
The money involved in each contract killing, according to police officials, is anything between C$5,000 to C$125,000.
Over the last two years, there have been at least two dozen contract killings involving NRIs in Punjab.
Most of the cases occurred in Punjab’s Doaba belt — the land between the Sutlej and Beas rivers comprising the districts of Jalandhar, Hoshiarpur, Kapurthala and Nawanshahr — where most of Canada’s South Asians hail from.
“NRIs sitting abroad think that they can get away with it by getting the crime committed in Punjab through contract killers,” said Jalandhar range deputy inspector general Narinder Pal Singh.
“They are wrong.”In Gosngarh, the villagers are in quandary.Remarkably, some say the brother and sister who have been charged with murder did the right thing to maintain the village honour. Others feel that there is no place for murder in their community.Charged in connection with the case are Amanpal Gill and her brother Gursewak Singh Gill. They live in Brampton, Ont. after having moved to Canada five years ago.They are accused of killing truck driver Jasbir Singh, also of Brampton and his India-based cousin, Harpreet Singh.Relating the case to the South Asian Post, Moga District Senior Superintendent of Police Ashok Bath alleged the murder was planned, by “a woman scorned.”“As per investigation held so far, the NRI Jasbir Singh and his cousin Harpreet Singh seem to have been killed by contract killers hired by NRI Amanpal Kaur Gill and her brother Gursewak Singh Gill,” he said.Jasbir and the brother Gursewak were friends in Brampton and had worked in the same Canadian company for some time.Young Amanpal got to know Jasbir and the two had a close relationship.However, Jasbir had no intention of marrying Amanpal, said family and friends Jasbir’s brother-in-law, Rajvinder Singh, also a Canadian citizen, said even though Jasbir was having an affair with Amanpal, he had made it clear that he would not marry her.“She had threatened that if he married some other girl in India, he would never return to Canada,” claimed Rajvinder.On January 7, Jasbir left for India to get married to another woman in the village of Nihal Singhwala — the bastion of the Dhaliwal clan.Jasbir’s parents had arrived a month earlier to finalise the wedding, which was to take place on Valentine’s Day.The arranged wedding in Nihal Singhwala was to be held the day after another wedding in the family.On the night of Feb 13, after the first wedding, Jasbir, his cousin Harpreet Singh and friend Manjit Singh, were returning home when a Honda City car overtook their vehicle and blocked its way.A gunman opened fire killing Jasbir, who was driving.
Manjit Singh, who was sitting next to Jasbir in the front seat, said a clean-shaven man opened fire through the side window, killing Jasbir on the spot. “Harpreet, sitting in the backseat, tried to jump out and was shot,” said Manjit.
Police said Gursewak, one of the accused, was seen during the run-up to the wedding celebrations in a white Honda City with several other men in Nihal Singhwala.
“We have lodged a report against both of them (Gursewak and Amanpal) on the complaint made by family members of the victims. They have alleged that Amanpal was putting pressure on Jasbir to marry her but he was not willing as he suspected her of infidelity,” said police superintendent Ashok Bath.
Repeated attempts were made by the South Asian Post to contact Amanpal at her cell phone and home numbers, but she did not call back before deadline.
In statements to Indian police, the families of the victim and the accused released the following statements.
Nirmal Singh, brother of the victim Jasbir Singh said: “Jasbir did not marry Amanpal as she was going around with many men. She claimed she was pregnant with Jasbir’s child but what was the proof he was the father. She had sent the contract killers.”
Gurmeet Kaur, mother of accused Amanpal Kaur and Gursewak Singh said: “My children are innocent . . . Amanpal wanted to marry Jasbir . . . We even offered them more money for the marriage as Jasbir was marrying the other girl for a hefty dowry. My son had come to India on Jan 27 and gone back on Feb 12. How could he be the killer?”
In Gonsgarh, villagers expressed shock that Amanpal Gill could be behind the murders and condemned the killings, but agreed Gill’s overarching grievances were just.
Nambarda Assa Singh said that while all murder should be condemned, youths who exploit a girl in the name of marrying her should be taught “some lessons.”Darbara Singh, another Canada-based NRI and a resident of the village, said youths who exploit girls would face “gory revenge.”“I don’t know if Amanpal and Gursewak killed them or not, but we villagers put the honour of the family over other things,” said Darbara Singh.Police are also investigating Gursewak for immigration fraud after he is suspecting of arranging a fake-document marriage with his sister Amanpal in order to get his immigration papers to Canada.Jasbir Singh’s murder at the hands of contract killers is the latest in a string of killings allegedly orchestrated by Non-resident Indians living in Canada and other western countries.In many of the Canadian cases, frustrated Indian police are unable to get their hands on the suspects because of Canada’s complex and snail-paced extradition process.Jalandhar range deputy inspector general Narinder Pal Singh attributed the increasing number of contract killings to disputes involving property, dowry and marriages.
“NRIs indulging in crime are also under the impression that they would not be caught while sitting abroad but it is not the case, and the police have been booking such NRIs,” he said.
Punjab police have recently set up six special police stations to deal with crimes involving NRIs.

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