More than two-dozen people were arrested Wednesday during large-scale drug-trafficking raids in Quebec and New Brunswick that authorities say could neutralize an organized crime ring linked to the Hells Angels.
The raids were part of a joint investigation into drug trafficking involving what police believe is a Montreal chapter of the Hells Angels, said Sureté du Québec Insp. Michel Pelletier.
"Our investigation tends to demonstrate that this ring included Hells Angels associates who took over drug trafficking territories after the 2001 Spring Raids and SharQC in 2009," Pelletier said at a news conference Wednesday afternoon, alluding to two major crackdowns last decade that targeted biker gangs.
Investigators with the latest sting operation believe they have identified four distinct drug trafficking cells working primarily in Montreal, the South Shore and New Brunswick, Pelletier said.
At least 25 people were in custody late Wednesday, after hundreds of police officers carried out search warrants in multiple municipalities across Quebec and N.B.
Officers seized large amounts of cocaine, marijuana, haschich, methamphetamine pills, weapons and cash.
Speaking earlier in the day in New Brunswick, RCMP Staff-Sgt. Al Farrah said suspects arrested are not necessarily Hells Angels members, "but they do keep business acquaintances with them."
"It's possible that there will be other arrests in the days and weeks to come," he said.
- 52 raids in 25 municipalities.
- 25 people arrested in Quebec.
- 3 people arrested in NB.
- 400 RCMP, provincial police and city officers involved in operation.
- Cocaine, methamphetamines, marijuana, haschich, cash and weapons seized.
Investigators allege the three Quebec cells regained control of lucrative drug-trafficking territory in the greater Montreal region in the aftermath of massive police raids in 2009.
The fourth cell, based in New Brunswick, is alleged to have travelled regularly to Montreal to pick up drugs for trafficking.
The suspects are due in court Wednesday afternoon in Longueuil, to face formal charges of drug trafficking and gangsterism.
Authorities claim the 2009 raids, dubbed Operation SharQC, were instrumental in dismantling the Hells Angels along Canada's Eastern seaboard.
New Brunswick 'not immune to organized crime'
The RCMP's federal drug section, two northern RCMP detachments, the Bathurst City Police and the Beresford, Nigadoo, Petit-Rocher, Pointe-Verte Police are involved in the New Brunswick searches.
The raids will have a significant impact on the illegal drug trade in New Brunswick, said Farrah.
"New Brunswick is unfortunately not immune to organized crime, but disrupting and deterring the illegal drug trade is one of the RCMP's priorities in our efforts to become Canada's safest province," he said.
The RCMP have been working on the joint investigations - Operation J Titanium and Operation J Toast - with the Montreal office of L'Escouade régionale mixte since the summer of 2010.
The police are watching the activities in New Brunswick that may be tied to biker gangs.
The Wednesday search warrants are not the first raids that the police have conducted recently.
The RCMP also searched a residence in Landry Office, N.B., on Nov. 19.
The police say a 46-year-old man was arrested and then released.