Surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada led to allegations around Sikh killing, official says

Surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada led to allegations around Sikh killing, official says
Ties between the two countries have plunged to their lowest point in years since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the assassination. (Reuters)
Short Url
Updated 22 September 2023
Follow

Surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada led to allegations around Sikh killing, official says

Surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada led to allegations around Sikh killing, official says

TORONTO: The allegation of India’s involvement in the killing of a Sikh Canadian is based on surveillance of Indian diplomats in Canada, including intelligence provided by a major ally, a Canadian official familiar with the matter told The Associated Press on Thursday.
The official said the communications involved Indian officials and Indian diplomats in Canada and that some of the intelligence was provided by a member of the “Five Eyes” intelligence-sharing alliance, which includes the US, Britain, Australia and New Zealand, in addition to Canada.
The official did not say which ally provided intelligence or give specific details of what was contained in the communications or how they were obtained. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the matter publicly.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation first reported the intelligence.
Earlier Thursday, India stopped issuing visas to Canadian citizens and told Canada to reduce its diplomatic staff as the rift widened between the once-close allies over Ottawa’s allegation that New Delhi may have been involved in the killing of Hardeep Singh Nijjar, a 45-year-old Sikh separatist, in a Vancouver suburb in June.
Ties between the two countries have plunged to their lowest point in years since Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said Monday there were “credible allegations” of Indian involvement in the assassination.
Nijjar, a plumber who was born in India and became a Canadian citizen in 2007, had been wanted by India for years before he was gunned down outside the temple he led in the city of Surrey.
Speaking Thursday on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly, Trudeau acknowledged the complicated diplomatic situation he faces.
“The decision to share these allegations on the floor of the House of Commons was not done lightly,” he said. “There is no question that India is a country of growing importance and a country that we need to continue to work with.”
“We are not looking to provoke or cause problems but we are unequivocal around the importance of the rule of law and unequivocal about the importance of protecting Canadians.”
The bombshell allegation set off an international tit-for-tat, with each country expelling a diplomat. India called the allegations “absurd.”
Canada has yet to provide public evidence to back Trudeau’s allegations, and Canada’s UN ambassador, Bob Rae, indicated that might not come soon.
“This is very early days,” Rae told reporters Thursday, insisting that while facts will emerge, they must “come out in the course of the pursuit of justice.”
“That’s what we call the rule of law in Canada,” he said.
On Thursday, the company that processes Indian visas in Canada announced that visa services had been suspended until further notice.
The suspension means Canadians who don’t already have visas cannot travel to India. Canadians are among the top travelers to India: In 2021, 80,000 Canadian tourists visited the country, according to India’s Bureau of Immigration.
Indian External Affairs Ministry spokesperson Arindam Bagchi blamed the visa suspension, which includes visas issued in third countries, on safety issues.
“Security threats being faced by our High Commission and consulates in Canada have disrupted their normal functioning. Accordingly, they are temporarily unable to process visa applications,” Bagchi told reporters. He gave no details on the alleged threats.
The announcement quickly rippled across Canada, especially among people with ties to India.
Sukhwinder Dhillon, a 56-year-old grocery store owner in Montreal, said he had a trip planned to India to see family and sort out his deceased father’s estate. Dhillon, who came to Canada in 1998, said he makes the trip every two or three years and has lost two immediate family members since he was last home.
“My father passed, and my brother passed,” Dhillon said. “I want to go now. ... Now I don’t know when we’ll go.”
Bagchi, the Indian foreign ministry spokesman, also called for a reduction in Canadian diplomats in India, saying they outnumbered Indian diplomats in Canada.
The Canadian High Commission in New Delhi said Thursday that its consulates in India are open and continue to serve clients. It said some of its diplomats had received threats on social media, adding that Canada expects India to provide security for its diplomats and consular officers working there.
On Wednesday, India warned its citizens to be careful when traveling to Canada because of “growing anti-India activities and politically condoned hate-crimes.”
India’s security and intelligence branches have long been active in South Asia and are suspected in a number of killings in Pakistan. But arranging the killing of a Canadian citizen in Canada, home to nearly 2 million people of Indian descent, would be unprecedented.
India has criticized Canada for years over giving free rein to Sikh separatists, including Nijjar. New Delhi had accused him of links to terrorism, which he denied.
Nijjar was a local leader in what remains of a once-strong movement to create an independent Sikh homeland, known as Khalistan. A bloody Sikh insurgency shook north India in the 1970s and 1980s until it was crushed in a government crackdown in which thousands of people were killed, including prominent Sikh leaders.
While the active insurgency ended decades ago, the Indian government has warned that Sikh separatists are trying to stage a comeback and pressed countries like Canada, where Sikhs comprise over 2 percent of the population, to do more to stop them.
At the time of his killing, Nijjar was working to organize an unofficial Sikh diaspora referendum on independence from India.
New Delhi’s anxieties about Sikh separatist groups in Canada have long been a strain on the relationship, but the two have maintained strong defense and trade ties and share strategic interests over China’s global ambitions.
In March, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government summoned the Canadian high commissioner in New Delhi, its top diplomat in the country, to complain about Sikh independence protests in Canada.
Signs of a broader diplomatic rift emerged at the summit of the Group of 20 leading world economies hosted by India earlier this month. Trudeau had frosty encounters with Modi, and a few days later Canada canceled a trade mission to India planned for the fall. A trade deal between the two is now on pause.
On Wednesday, India’s National Investigation Agency said it has intensified its crackdown on Sikh insurgents operating in India.
It announced rewards of up to 1 million rupees ($12,000) for information leading to the arrest of five insurgents, one of whom is believed to be based in neighboring Pakistan. It accused them of extorting money from businesses for a banned Sikh organization, the Babbar Khalsa International, and of targeted killings in India.


Chinese fighters, weather balloon cross Taiwan Strait a month before election

Chinese fighters, weather balloon cross Taiwan Strait a month before election
Updated 8 sec ago
Follow

Chinese fighters, weather balloon cross Taiwan Strait a month before election

Chinese fighters, weather balloon cross Taiwan Strait a month before election
  • Taiwan holds presidential and parliamentary polls on January 13 and campaigning has kicked into high gear
TAIPEI: Taiwan said on Friday that 12 Chinese fighter jets and a suspected weather balloon had crossed the Taiwan Strait’s sensitive median line, in a ratcheting up of tensions about a month before the island’s presidential election.
Democratically governed Taiwan, which China claims as its own territory, has complained for the past four years of regular Chinese military patrols and drills near the island.
Taiwan holds presidential and parliamentary polls on Jan. 13 and campaigning has kicked into high gear with how the next government handles relations with China a major point of contention.
Taiwan’s defense ministry, offering details of Chinese missions on Thursday night, said 12 fighter jets had crossed the median line, that once served as an unofficial barrier between the two sides but which Chinese planes now regularly fly over.
In an unusual addition to its statement, the ministry said that around midday on Thursday it had also detected a Chinese balloon 101 nautical miles (187 km) southwest of the northern Taiwanese city of Keelung, which traveled eastward for about an hour, crossing the strait before disappearing.
Taiwan Defense Minister Chiu Kuo-cheng told reporters at parliament that their “initial understanding” was it was probably a weather balloon, but felt the ministry had an obligation to report this to be public.
“Otherwise, if after other units or other countries have reported it, everyone will wonder why (we) did not report it. The defense ministry requires all our subordinate units to have a grasp of the enemy situation,” he added.
China’s defense ministry did not respond to a request for comment.
The potential for China to use of balloons for spying became a global issue in February when the United States shot down what it said was a Chinese surveillance balloon but which China said was a civilian craft that accidentally drifted astray.
Taiwan is on high alert for Chinese activities, both military and political, ahead of its election, especially what Taipei views as Beijing’s efforts to interfere in the ballot to get electors to vote for candidates China may prefer.
Vice President Lai Ching-te and running mate Hsiao Bi-khim from the ruling Democratic Progressive Party are leading in the polls. China views then as separatists and has rebuffed Lai’s offers of talks.
Taiwan Foreign Minister Joseph Wu said on Friday that China’s Taiwan Affairs Office was being “blatant” in its interference. It has called Lai and Hsiao an “independence double act.”
“They are commenting in very negative language about Vice President Lai or the vice presidential candidate Bi-khim Hsiao. Those kinds of statements have already told the Taiwanese people that they want to interfere in Taiwan’s election and they want to shape the results of the election,” Wu said.
“They are doing all sorts of things to interfere in our election and we can expect more leading up to our polling date.
China’s Taiwan Affairs Office did not respond to a request for comment on Friday about Taiwan’s interference accusations. Previously it has said only that it respects Taiwan’s “social systems.”
It has, however, framed the election as a vote between war and peace, and urged Taiwan’s people to carefully consider their choices.

Ukraine says Kharkiv hit by several Russian missiles

Ukraine says Kharkiv hit by several Russian missiles
Updated 23 min 2 sec ago
Follow

Ukraine says Kharkiv hit by several Russian missiles

Ukraine says Kharkiv hit by several Russian missiles
  • Districts of Kholodnohirskyi and Shevchenkivskyi were hit and residential buildings in the area were damaged

KYIV: Several Russian missiles hit the city of Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, wounding one person and damaging residential buildings, Ukrainian authorities said Thursday night.
“The occupiers hit Kharkiv six times,” the head of the regional military administration, Oleg Synegubov, wrote on Telegram, adding that one person had received medical treatment on the spot.
The districts of Kholodnohirskyi and Shevchenkivskyi were hit and residential buildings in the area were damaged, he said.
Initial information suggested the projectiles were S-300 missiles, he added.
The mayor of Kharkiv, Igor Terekhov, counted “at least five strikes” and one person wounded.
A coal mine in the eastern town of Toretsk was also hit on Thursday afternoon in a separate attack, according to the Ukraine’s energy ministry.
One person working on the site was injured and taken to a hospital, according to the ministry, which reported “significant damage.”


Hunter Biden hit with federal charges for evading tax

Hunter Biden hit with federal charges for evading tax
Updated 36 min 56 sec ago
Follow

Hunter Biden hit with federal charges for evading tax

Hunter Biden hit with federal charges for evading tax
  • Presidential son faces up to 17 years in prison if convicted
  • US justice department says its investigation into Biden is ongoing

LOS ANGELES: The Department of Justice on Thursday filed new criminal charges against US President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, accusing him of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes while spending millions of dollars on a lavish lifestyle.
Hunter Biden, 53, was hit with three felony and six misdemeanor tax offenses, according to an indictment filed in US District Court, Central District of California.
He faces up to 17 years in prison if convicted. The Justice Department said its investigation into Biden is ongoing.
“The Defendant engaged in a four-year scheme to not pay at least $1.4 million in self-assessed federal taxes he owed for tax years 2016 through 2019,” the indictment read.
It added that he had instead spent huge sums “on drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing, and other items of a personal nature” including over $70,000 on drug rehabilitation.
A lawyer for Hunter Biden did not immediately reply to a request for comment. The White House declined to comment.
It was not clear when Hunter Biden would appear in court.
The indictment says Hunter Biden “earned handsomely” while serving on the boards of Burisma, a Ukrainian industrial conglomerate, and a Chinese private equity fund.
Prosecutors said that between 2016 and October 2020, he received more than $7 million in total gross income.
That included nearly $2.3 million from his position on the board of directors of Burisma between 2016 and 2019, the filing says.
Hunter Biden’s affiliation with Burisma has been the focus of years of attacks from Republican lawmakers who have accused him of leveraging his family name to make money overseas.
“The Defendant had a legal obligation to pay taxes on all his income, including income earned in Ukraine from his service on Burisma’s Board, fees generated by deal-making with the Chinese private equity fund, as well as income derived from his work as a lawyer and other sources,” the indictment said.
Adding to Hunter Biden’s income was work for CEFC China Energy Co. Ltd, a Chinese energy conglomerate.
As Hunter Biden’s income increased, so did his spending, according to the filing.
In 2018 alone, the indictment read, Hunter Biden “spent more than $1.8 million, including approximately $772,000 in cash withdrawals, approximately $383,000 in payments to women, approximately $151,000 in clothing and accessories.”
The indictment added: “The Defendant did not use any of these funds to pay his taxes in 2018.”
Hunter Biden in October pleaded not guilty to charges in Delaware that he lied about his drug use while buying a handgun, in the first criminal prosecution of a sitting US president’s child.
US Special Counsel David Weiss, who is leading the probe into Hunter Biden, was appointed Delaware US attorney by former President Donald Trump. He was made special counsel by Attorney General Merrick Garland in August.
He brought charges in Delaware against Hunter Biden after the unraveling of an earlier proposed plea deal that had called for him to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges for failing to pay taxes in 2017 and 2018, an agreement which likely would have allowed him to avoid prison.
US District Judge Maryellen Noreika rejected the proposed plea deal in July, raising concerns over its legality and the scope of immunity it offered.
Trump, the leading contender to be the Republican Party’s nominee in next year’s presidential election, said the plea deal amounted to favorable treatment for the president’s son.


ASEAN strongly condemns Sunday’s ‘heinous terrorist attack’ in Philippines

ASEAN strongly condemns Sunday’s ‘heinous terrorist attack’ in Philippines
Updated 53 min 30 sec ago
Follow

ASEAN strongly condemns Sunday’s ‘heinous terrorist attack’ in Philippines

ASEAN strongly condemns Sunday’s ‘heinous terrorist attack’ in Philippines
  • A bomb went off on Sunday during a service at a university gymnasium in Marawi
  • City was left in ruins in 2017 by a five-month military campaign to end an occupation by Daesh loyalists

MANILA: The Southeast Asian bloc ASEAN on Friday strongly condemned what it called a “heinous terrorist attack” in the southern Philippines at the weekend in which four people were killed in a bombing at a Catholic Mass.
The bomb went off on Sunday during a service at a university gymnasium in Marawi, a city left in ruins in 2017 by a five-month military campaign to end an occupation by Daesh loyalists that triggered alarm in Asia about the group’s influence.
“We extend our deepest condolences to the bereaved families,” the Association of Southeast Asian Nations said in a statement.
Daesh militants claimed responsibility for Sunday’s attack. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr said “foreign terrorists” were behind it and police said they were investigating the incident and validating the claim by the Daesh group.
Police had identified as suspects two members of Daulah-Islamiyah Maute, a local group involved in the 2017 seizure of Marawi alongside fighters from Indonesia, Malaysia and beyond.
The Philippine military on Friday announced the Dec. 6 arrest in Marawi of a man suspected of placing the bomb in the gymnasium having been being identified by witnesses.


WHO says more contaminated medicinal syrups found in new regions

WHO says more contaminated medicinal syrups found in new regions
Updated 08 December 2023
Follow

WHO says more contaminated medicinal syrups found in new regions

WHO says more contaminated medicinal syrups found in new regions
  • The affected products were manufactured by Pharmix Laboratories in Pakistan
  • The medicines, liquids containing active ingredients to treat various conditions, contained unacceptable levels of contaminant ethylene glycol

The World Health Organization on Thursday said several contaminated syrups and suspension medicines had been identified in countries in the WHO regions of the Americas, the Eastern Mediterranean, South-East Asia and the Western Pacific.
The affected products were manufactured by Pharmix Laboratories in Pakistan, the WHO said, and were first identified in the Maldives and Pakistan. Some of the tainted products have also been found in Belize, Fiji and Laos. Pharmix was not immediately available for comment.
The medicines, liquids containing active ingredients to treat various conditions, contained unacceptable levels of the contaminant ethylene glycol, WHO said.
The alert is the latest in a line of warnings from WHO about similarly contaminated medicines made in India and Indonesia, which were linked to the deaths of around 300 children worldwide last year.
No adverse events have been reported to the WHO regarding the Pakistan-made syrups, the agency’s statement said, but it urged countries to step up vigilance and test products made by the company between December 2021 and December 2022.
The contamination was found in Alergo syrup in a routine examination by the Maldives Food and Drug Authority in November, and confirmed by the Australian regulator.
A follow-up inspection at Pharmix manufacturing facilities, conducted by the Drug Regulatory Authority of Pakistan, found that a number of other products were also contaminated. It has ordered the company to stop making all oral liquid medicines and issued a recall alert in November.
A total of 23 batches of Alergo syrup, Emidone suspension, Mucorid syrup, Ulcofin suspension and Zincell syrup are affected, the WHO said. Only Alergo so far has been found outside Pakistan.
The contamination levels ranged from 0.62 percent to 0.82 percent, compared to the accepted level of not more than 0.10 percent, according to the alert. The products are variously designed to treat allergies, coughs and other health issues.
“The substandard products referenced in this alert are unsafe and their use, especially in children, may result in serious injury or death,” the WHO warned.