Killings of 2 Canadians in Mexico due to gang debt, prosecutor says

A prosecutor in Mexico said Tuesday the killing of two Canadians at a Caribbean coast resort last week was motivated by debts between international gangs apparently dedicated to drug and weapons trafficking.

Brazen shooting took place Friday at Hotel Xcaret resort south of Playa del Carmen

Forensic technicians and hotel employees stand near a scene where two Canadians were killed and a third wounded in a shooting at Hotel Xcaret in Mexico's Quintana Roo state on Friday. (Reuters)

A prosecutor in Mexico said Tuesday the killing of two Canadians at a Caribbean coast resort last week was motivated by debts between international gangs apparently dedicated to drug and weapons trafficking.

On Friday, prosecutors said both men who died had criminal records in Canada, and one was a known felon with a long record related to robbery, drug and weapons offences. A third Canadian, a woman, was wounded and is being treated at a local hospital, but is not yet able to speak with investigators.

"The investigations indicate that this attack was motivated by debts that arose from transnational illegal activities that the victims participated in," said Oscar Montes, the chief prosecutor of the Quintana Roo state. "The information [is] that they were involved in weapons and drug trafficking, among other crimes."

Montes said the attack had been planned for almost a month by a cartel or gang that had not previously been known to operate in the area. But in keeping with standard procedure, he declined to name the gang.

WATCH | Prosecutors says 2 Canadians killed in Mexico over debts: 

Canadians killed in Mexico over gang debt, prosecutors say

5 months ago
Duration 2:01
Two people, including a Canadian, have been arrested after two other Canadians were killed in a shooting at a Mexico hotel, which a prosecutor alleges was part of an assassination plot over debt between two gangs.

The attack took place Friday at the Hotel Xcaret resort south of Playa del Carmen. The attackers apparently had guest wrist bands to enter the resort.

2 arrested so far

Montes said a first group of assassins hired to kill the Canadians earlier in January abandoned the job because there was too much security. 

A second assassin flew in to the resort to carry out the killing, he said. 

Authorities said the two suspects arrested in the case so far are a professional kidnapper from Mexico City who co-ordinated the plot, and the hired killer.

Police also arrested a female, identified only by her last name, Nu, who was apparently part of the group of 10 Canadians vacationing at the resort.

Montes said Nu both "cared for the children" of the victims, and allegedly met with the killers and may have been providing them information on their activities.

An ambulance is seen outside the Playamed hospital, where a wounded person was transferred after the shooting at the resort, on Friday. (Juan Manuel/AFP/Getty Images)

In an emailed response to CBC News on Tuesday, Global Affairs Canada said it is "aware of the death of two Canadian citizens and the detention of a Canadian citizen in Mexico."

"Consular officials are in contact with local authorities to gather information and are providing consular assistance. To protect the privacy of the individuals concerned, further details on this case cannot be released."

Brazen series of violent acts

Because of the huge flow of foreigners to the Caribbean coast state of Quintana Roo, it has seen a number of crime rings with international connections.

A Romanian gang has long operated in the state, using ATMs to clone credit cards or make illegal withdrawals. And this week authorities arrested two Ukrainians for their alleged involvement in a fuel theft ring. Immigrant traffickers have long used Cancun as a base for smuggling Cuban migrants.

Friday's shooting is the latest brazen act of violence along Mexico's famed Mayan Riviera, the crown jewel of its tourism industry. (CBC)

Last week's killings were the latest in a series of brazen acts of violence along Mexico's resort-studded Mayan Riviera coast, the crown jewel of the country's tourism industry.

In November, a shootout on the beach of Puerto Morelos left two suspected drug dealers dead. Authorities said there were some 15 gunmen from a gang that apparently disputed control of drug sales there.

In late October, farther south in the laid back destination of Tulum, two tourists — one a California travel blogger born in India and the other a German — were killed when they were caught in the apparent crossfire of rival drug dealers.

Following those events, President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador sent nearly 1,500 members of the National Guard to reinforce security in the area.