May 15, 2009 / 10:20 PM / in 9 years

Canadian police charge eight in bloody drug war

VANCOUVER, British Columbia (Reuters) - Canadian police said on Friday they had dealt a serious blow to one of the gangs waging an often bloody turf war over the West Coast drug trade.

Eight people have been charged with conspiracy to murder in a crackdown that police say has virtually wiped out the leadership of the UN Gang.

The alleged members of the UN Gang were accused of plotting to kill the leaders of the rival Red Scorpions. The gangs have been fighting with for control of the retail drug trade in Vancouver’s suburbs -- usually involving imports of cocaine from Mexico and exports of marijuana.

Police also said their investigation had uncovered 20 weapons with over 100,000 rounds of ammunition, as well as grenades, plus C$265,000 ($225,000) in cash.

Five of the arrests were made this week, while three of the men had already been charged.

Investigators say the round of charges had effectively eliminated the leadership of the UN Gang, which is believed to have named itself after the United Nations to reflect its multiethnic membership.

Several alleged members of the Red Scorpions have also been arrested in recent weeks on murder charges.

A UN Gang founder, Clay Rouche, pleaded guilty last month to drug charges in nearby Seattle, Washington. Canadian police say they believe he was also involved in the murder conspiracy, but he has not yet been charged.

Vancouver gang violence caught international media attention earlier this year with the region recording more than 20 gang-related murders since mid-January. The issue became a high-profile public relations embarrassment for the city, which is preparing to host the 2010 Winter Olympics.

Reporting Allan Dowd, editing by Rob Wilson

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