A Pitt Meadows man has been charged with firearms offences after officers with the provincial anti-gang unit completed a firearm trafficking investigation.
In mid-2020, investigators from Combined Forces Special Enforcement Unit (CFSEU-BC) initiated their investigation into the alleged use of a “straw purchaser,” after responding to a suspicious purchase of a firearm by two men from a Lower Mainland firearms retailer.
Police allege one of the men, who did not have a valid licence to purchase firearms, and was prohibited from possessing firearms, appeared to be directing the other man to buy a firearm and ammunition. The purchaser had also bought several other firearms in the past year, say police.
The investigation proceeded and in early September 2020 led to the arrest of one of the men, and the recovery of one firearm.
A short time later, the investigation led to the execution of a search warrant on a residence and storage locker. Items seized included:
• Two shotguns
• Two rifles
• Various ammunition
• High-capacity magazines
• Police-related equipment, including police hats, shoulder flashes, a vest, and a collapsible baton
• A starter pistol
Along with the search warrants, an additional five firearms were seized during the course of the investigation:
• Three handguns, one of which had the serial number tampered with
• An SKS semi-automatic rifle
• A CZ Scorpion semi-automatic rifle
Police explained a “straw purchaser” is someone with a valid Possession and Acquisition Licence (PAL), but no criminal record, who is recruited by others, often those involved in crime, to buy firearms for someone who otherwise could not. Those who are arranging the purchase through the straw purchaser do not want their name associated with the transaction, because they have a criminal record, are banned from purchasing or owning firearms, or are, themselves, acting on behalf of others involved in crime.
Straw purchasing, which the RCMP-led National Weapons Enforcement Support Team (NWEST) advises they have seen more of the past 18 months, undermines the legal firearm acquisition and ownership process by law-abiding gun owners, noted police spokesperson Sgt. Brenda Winpenny. It can lead to these guns potentially ending up in the hands of those people who pose the greatest risks to public safety.
Harjot Chahal, 26, from Pitt Meadows, has been charged with trafficking a firearm and offering to traffic a firearm.
Alex Lytle, 31, of Port Coquitlam, has been charged with four counts of possession of a firearm contrary to an order, and possession of a loaded/restricted firearm.
None of the charges against these men have been proven in court. Both have been released from custody, awaiting the court process.
“Do not be used by criminals looking to secure firearms to be used in crimes,” said Supt. Duncan Pound of the CFSEU-BC.
“The Crime, Guns, Intelligence, and Investigations Group (CGIIG) within CFSEU-BC is working with firearms retailers, the National Weapons Enforcement Support Team and the Chief Firearms Officer to aggressively pursue straw purchasers and criminals linked to them. If you have any information about suspicious firearms purchasers please contact your local police.”
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