A US investigation that led to the arrest of a California senator and Chinese triad members linked to weapons trafficking has thrown up some troubling Canadian links.
Sen. Leland Yee (Democrat, San Francisco) and 25 others were named in a federal complaint charging them with firearms trafficking, money laundering, murder-for-hire, drug distribution, trafficking contraband cigarettes and honest services fraud.
The supplier of the weapons was a Filipino national “who previously sold guns to individuals from Florida and delivered through the Port of Cagayan de Oro,” according to the 137-page criminal complaint.
In the documents FBI undercover agents talked to the Yee about movement of weapons from Russia via Canada and bulk cash smuggling from Canadian cities.
Also arrested in the raid was 54-year-old Raymond “Shrimp Boy” Chow, a former Chinatown gangster who now heads the Chee Kung Tong masonic organization in San Francisco.
Chow is well known by Asian Organised crime investigators in Vancouver and Toronto and is believed to have connections with Triad groups in Canada.
A federal complaint against Yee accuses him of soliciting illegal campaign donations in exchange for political favors and conspiring to smuggle weapons from countries like the Philippines.
Yee's lawyer said the senator plans to plead not guilty to six charges of public corruption and one count of conspiring to sell guns without a license.
Yee reportedly sought to raise money for his campaign by promising to help undercover agents get illegal guns from various arms dealers in the Philippines.
Authorities said his first Filipino arms broker, who remains anonymous, even distributed guns to rebel groups in the Philippines.
In an affidavit, Yee was quoted as saying that he visited Mindanao two years ago, upon the invitation of Mindanao officials. He added that he was surrounded by people who had high-powered guns.
Yee also reportedly tapped a contact, a Filipino from Daly City named Dr. Wilson Lim, who he cited as having associates in the Philippines who were "trying to overthrow the current government".
The indictment said Lim's nephew was the contact for the weapons deal and that a captain in the Philippine military was to provide the weapons.
The weapons would be shipped to Manila or to the Port of Cagayan de Oro, and then shipped again to various countries.
The same year Yee was reportedly trying to broker the arms deal to the undercover agent, now identified as Emmanuel V. Pascua, Yee actually sponsored a pair of gun control bills in California.
If found guilty, Yee could face up to 20 years for each count of corruption against him and could be forced to pay up to half a million dollars in fines.
Manila media reported this week that the government has no lead yet on reports that California state Senator Leland Yee is involved in firearms trafficking from the Philippines to the US, through contacts in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
Deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte, however, assured the public that the government is looking into it.
"There is no need for the directive. I spoke with Lieutenant Colonel Ramon Zagala this morning, and the AFP is already looking into that particular report," Valte said.
"We have also been trying to get a name or at least more information about the alleged involvement of a supposed military officer. But so far, none have turned up in the past few hours and we trust that the AFP will get to the bottom of it," she added. Because there is also concern... should it be clarified that someone from the AFP is allegedly involved."
Valte also brushed aside reports that Yee said the Philippines "is a very corrupt country" and that its government is secretly funding some Muslim rebel groups to distract the public from other state matters.
"I would not know about the basis of his opinion and, obviously, we do not share that opinion," she said.
Gregory S. McNeal is a professor specializing in law and public policy wrote on Forbes.com that
the group Senator Yee knew he would be supporting was described by him as the M.I.L.F., (Moro Islamic Libertaion Front) which Senator Yee believed was being secretly funded by the Philippine government in an effort to create a distraction from corruption within the Philippine government.
Senator Yee also believed that there were factions within the M.I.L.F. and other groups who were opposed to the peace treaty signed between the Philippine government and Muslim groups.
While the M.I.L.F. has had ties to Al Qaeda’s regional affiliate Jemaah Islamiyah, and the terrorist group Abu Sayyaf, M.I.L.F. is not a designated terrorist group, and without more evidence that Senator Yee specifically intended to support terrorism, it is unlikely that Senator Yee will face terrorism related charges.
Meanwhile, Canada’s Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird has urged the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to continue working together to make the agreement they signed last week “a reality”.
“Canada encourages both parties to the Agreement, and all Filipinos, to continue to work together to make this Agreement a reality, to implement it in good faith and to overcome the legacy of conflict. Canada stands ready to assist,” Baird said in a statement.
The Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro was signed in Manila last week with Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Abdul Razak as witness.
Malaysia has been facilitating the peace talks since 2001.
“After decades of conflict and more than 20 years of negotiations, this historic milestone paves the way for lasting peace, stability, development and long-term economic prosperity for the people of the southern Philippines and will redound to the benefit of all Filipinos,” Baird noted.
“Canada is proud to have supported the development of the Agreement through our contribution to the work of the Government of the Philippines’ Independent Commission on Policing,” he added.