Blog dedicated primarily to randomly selected news items; comments reflecting personal perceptions

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Vancouver Port as Conduit

"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."
"So as far as the ports are concerned, it's the whole success of the Hells Angels."
Det.-Staff.Sgt.Len Isnor, Ontario Provincial Police

"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."
"Vancouver marine will continue to pose a high risk for the smuggling of precursor chemicals into Canada from China and India. 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 links smuggling to Hells Angels and other gangster at the port working] 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 re-establishing their presence at the ports, these successes are typically shortlived."
2010 Border Services Agency internal report
Port of VancouverThe Port of Vancouver: 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. Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG
"Yes, we are aware of who they are. They make no secret of it. It is not within my mandate. We are a service primarily to labour relations and training and secondarily in terms of government relations and social outreach. In any of those areas, we have yet to see a situation where someone's criminal associations or participation in the Hells Angels, or whatever, has been an issue."
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 [Transportation Security Clearance pass issued by Transport Canada] doesn't come into it."
Andy Smith, president, B.C. Maritime Employers Association

"If Transport Canada receives any information that an existing clearance holder poses a security threat, we act on it."
"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."
"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.
Guy Morgan, director of security and screening programs, Transport Canada

The 2010 Canada Border Security Agency report states their understanding that even 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." Nothing, however, particularly new in these revelations. They've been known for decades. And for decades authorities have shrugged, while law enforcement is alarmed.

Back in 1995 the Criminal Intelligence Section of the province reported: "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". It was also reported that the B.C. Hells Angels enjoy close relations with the Mafia, referred to as "traditional organized crime".

So, what to do about it? No one seems all that determined to do much of anything about it, actually. Not least the president of the B.C. Maritime Employers Association, who feels that putting an end to bikers or other criminals working on the docks, having useful-to-crime access for the retrieval and movement of drugs and allied contraband, would solve nothing. Stop one access point, another will move in, he claims.

"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. 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", he asserts with complete confidence.

Why have laws altogether as part of the social contract that governments will undertake the responsibility to ensure that law and order be observed? Why just not let anarchy rein as it would with no constraints placed upon humanity's penchant to indulge in illegal activities meant to enrich themselves? With no roadblocks to illicit activity chaos ensues. Granted, as long as the gangsters hired with union backing are given the opportunity their organizations require to ply their trade, all is serene. But in turning a blinkered eye to such underworld connections at Canada's premier port of call various levels of government and authority are enabling crime.

The employment practise permitting union members to nominate friends, relatives and associates as new positions come open on the docks, also allows for members of criminal organizations to open the ranks to more gangsters working on the docks of Metro Vancouver unloading container ships. It is an arrangement whose strategic functionality is of immense benefit to organized crime and the gangsters involved in it. More than one and a half million sea containers pass through the four container terminals every year at Port Metro Vancouver.

And the Canada Border Services Agency, whose job it is to check containers, manages to validate the contents with their shipping manifests of slightly over three percent of the total. Some Hells Angels members have worked on the docks for decades, and others come on stream constantly, representing a minority of workers it is true, but workers with a distinct agenda. Union locals send out their workers to Fraser Surrey docks and Deltaport as well as Vancouver; some of the union executive have personal criminal histories.

Of course there's nothing particularly new about these types of activities going on at docks anywhere in the world; they're a magnet for crime, giving suitable access to illegal shipments to be dispersed by those involved in transporting and disseminating illicit goods. Public records and union membership lists blatantly identify such links. Police are certainly troubled by the fact that criminals and gangsters are enabled to move drugs and other contraband through Port Metro Vancouver.

Once someone is certified as a union member and is hired to work at the port, they're given a basic port pass, for which a criminal record check is not required. That pass permits access on a wide scale to the tens of thousands of containers behind locked gates in Vancouver, Surrey and Delta. Among the thousands of dock workers in British Columbia some are in possession of higher-security Transportation Security Clearance passes allowing them to enter waterfront restricted areas.

Part of the problem in clamping down on the common existence of criminals working at ports is quite simply a lack of policing manpower. The RCMP can do just so much with the resources available to the federal policing force. Thousands of officers have been reassigned across the country to focus on terrorism cases. Working on organized crime cases suffers as a result.
Port of Vancouver

Andy Smith, president of the BC Maritime Employers Association, photographed at the Port of Vancouver. He says his agency is aware of the Hells Angels and others with gang connections on the docks. Photograph by: Arlen Redekop, PNG

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