Police net 47 suspected gang members in major raids
Published Thursday, February 12, 2009 7:29PM EST
Police in Quebec and Ontario carried out massive raids on suspected biker and street gang members Thursday in an attempt to disrupt cocaine-trafficking networks.
"Operation Axe" involved 700 police officers -- 500 from Montreal and 200 from Ottawa, the RCMP, and Laval and Longueuil police services.
Officers arrested 47 people in the raid, Montreal police said in a news conference.
The 44 men and three women are facing charges ranging from gangsterism to weapons charges to drug trafficking.
Police allege that some of the arrested were members of the Hells Angels.
Police said that the raids netted: 25 weapons, 40 kilograms of cocaine, 11 kilograms of hashish and significant amounts of marijuana, pills and steroids.
CTV Montreal's Herb Luft said the raids targeted "mainly leaders as opposed to street-level drug dealers."
One of the warrants was for a suspect already in prison in Kingston, Ont. Another suspect was arrested in a Laval prison.
Montreal police Sgt. Ian Lafreniere told CTV Newsnet on Thursday the operation was the culmination of several years of police investigations that began in January 2006.
CTV's Genevieve Beauchemin said the raids appeared to be targeting those involved with the importation and sale of cocaine.
"What they wanted to do was deliver a big blow to the organizations," she said.
Investigative journalist Julian Sher, who co-authored a book on the Hells Angels, said the raids were not just limited to the Angels.
"It's much more of a one-two punch, going after not just the Hells Angels but also their key street gangs in Montreal and around the city," he told CTV Montreal on Thursday.
In 2001, police carried out another major operation against biker gangs. That sweep involved 1,700 officers and shook the structure of some of Quebec's most infamous gangs.
Beauchemin said those groups have been restructured in recent years, and Thursday's operation was intended to once again cripple the criminal networks.
With files from The Canadian Press