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Edmonton new-home arsons linked to extortion scheme: sources

Brand new, unoccupied homes have been going up in flames all over Edmonton, and sources tell CTV News Edmonton the fires are related to an extortion scheme.

In November, a new build was destroyed in the southeast neighbourhood of Aster.

A week later, a house on the same block was burned.

Edmonton Fire Rescue Services says between Nov. 1 and Jan. 2, there have been nine fires involving new or under-construction residential structures.

Three of those fires happened in the last week.

All of those fires are being investigated as arson or have been confirmed to be deliberately set.

Most of the builders of the homes are members of the South Asian community.

Multiple sources say the builders have been receiving extortion demands and threats.

The person behind the threat demands a large sum of money.

When the builders don’t pay, their homes are being burnt down.

In a video captured by a resident in west Edmonton, where two homes were set on fire last week, two men appear to light a fire at the side of the home before leaving the scene.

A member of the South Asian community, who CTV News has agreed to keep anonymous for his safety, says the threats are being received through WhatsApp, phone calls and other social media.

“Every builder has hired dozens of security guards to protect their properties, and protect themselves and their houses,” he said.

“I’ve heard some builders have set up big screen cameras in their homes and they’re staying up all night.”

Edmonton isn’t the only community where businesses are being targeted.

In Ontario, Peel police have launched a task force after recent extortion attempts targeting the South Asian business community.

In B.C., a shooting at a White Rock home was connected to an extortion letter targeting business owners.

Two men have been arrested in that case.

Former B.C. Minister of Public Safety Kash Heed says Edmonton police need to suppress the extortion incidents in Edmonton immediately before the individuals behind it become emboldened.

“Politicians have to look at this as a priority for the South Asian community or we’re going to have people die and we’re going to have more violence,” he told CTV News.

The anonymous source agrees.

“They have started with the South Asian community but it will not stay a South Asian problem. If someone gets a taste of this kind of bad money, they’re going to go after everyone,” he said.

The Edmonton Police Service says it has a dedicated project team working on the investigation.

They expect to release more information soon. 

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