Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Gangster gets 15-plus years for kidnappings, extortion


Judge delivers stiff penalty for brutal drug-related crimes

Convicted serial kidnapper Jethinder Singh (Roman) Narwal was sentenced to more than 15 years in jail Thursday in one of the stiffest penalties of its kind.
Narwal, 30, looked stone-faced as Justice Sunni Stromberg-Stein read a series of varying jail terms for each of 13 counts related to three brutal drug-related kidnappings last year.
"These crimes occurred because the accused was involved in smuggling large amounts of drugs -- marijuana -- across the border," Stromberg-Stein said.
"The attitude of Mr. Narwal is particularly telling. He has demonstrated a pattern of criminality."
She said Narwal deserved "the high end of the scale," which was between the 15 and 20 years the prosecution requested.
Lead Crown counsel Joe Bellows said afterwards that the sentence will send a significant message to others involved in drug gangs.
"Clearly this kind of behaviour should not be tolerated and won't be," Bellows said, with prosecutor Mike Huot at his side.
"This probably is the longest sentence imposed in British Columbia [in a kidnapping case]."
But Narwal lawyer Matthew Nathanson said there have been many longer kidnapping sentences handed down in other cases.
He noted that the longest individual kidnapping sentence Stromberg-Stein meted out was 12 years. The term increased to more than 15 because of additional time given on extortion, assault and firearm counts.
"My client intends to vigorously pursue a conviction appeal that will be filed next week," Nathanson said.
Stromberg-Stein recounted the details of the kidnappings in January, April and May of 2005.
The first victim, Harpeet (Happy) Singh, was grabbed in January 2005 because he was a member of Narwal's crew believed to have been involved in the theft of $400,000 worth of marijuana and the murder of two others in the gang.
While Narwal was out on bail, he kidnapped Khark Grewal in late April and tried to extort his father for $500,000 because he abandoned 72 kilograms of pot near the B.C.-U.S. border in a failed attempt to cross the line.
Just days later, Harjit Singh Toor of Abbotsford was grabbed at gunpoint after work and grilled about his suspected knowledge of missing marijuana.
His family paid $160,000 to the kidnappers as police followed the exchange, leading to the arrest last May 7 of Narwal and others.
"Both Mr. Grewal and Toor were terrorized and threatened with death," Stromberg-Stein noted.
Both were told they would have to dig their own graves.
"These are egregious aggravating circumstances," she said.
Other accused are charged in each kidnapping and will have separate trials.
Narwal's mother Gurmej Kaur, who had made the trip from Kamloops, was escorted out by supporters after the dramatic hearing under tight security.
Police officers, most from Surrey RCMP, who investigated two of the three kidnappings, shook hands and smiled after the sentencing.
Several Narwal buddies, who have been a fixture at the trial, looked grim as they walked past more than a dozen plain-clothed officers.
Bellows said the three victims, while their own records weren't spotless, should be commended for coming forward.

"I think they really deserve a lot of credit for having the courage to come forward despite their background," Bellows said. "And I think a lot of credit is due to police investigators."
Surrey RCMP spokesman Cpl. Roger Morrow also stressed that police will always take cases seriously despite the history of complainants.
"If they are victims of a crime, they should always feel free to come forward to police," he said.
The total sentence for the kidnappings of three young Indo-Canadian men was 17 years, but Stromberg-Stein gave Narwal 22 months' credit for the 11 months he has been in jail.
At the sentencing hearing Tuesday, Bellows said that the number of similar kidnappings had doubled across the Lower Mainland from 2004 to 2005.
And Bellows said that the Indo-Canadian community has been fighting back at gangs that have left more than 100 young men dead in the last decade.
Supt. John Robin, who heads the B.C. Integrated Gang Task Force, said the conviction will really help police in the battle to reduce the violence.
"It sends a really strong message to those who mix violence and drugs that they will be aggressively prosecuted and that the courts are going to have no tolerance," Robin said Thursday.
kbolan@png.canwest.com

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