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Three charged with staging anti-Semitic attack at Winnipeg cafe

Winnipeg police are investigating a commercial robbery and a hate crime that took place on Corydon Avenue on Thursday evening.
Winnipeg police were investigating a commercial robbery and a hate crime reported on Corydon Avenue, Winnipeg. - Postmedia/File

What was first believed to be a possible anti-Semitic attack against a Jewish-owned cafe turns out to have been staged by the three owners of the Corydon Avenue restaurant, Winnipeg police say.

All three owners were arrested and charged with public mischief after investigators determined there was evidence of a crime at BerMax Caffe and Bistro, just not one that was hate-fuelled.

“I am hugely disappointed and, frankly, angry that this family has used hate and racism in such a disingenuous way,” Smyth said. “In doing so, they have allowed cynicism to creep into this discussion. Cynicism that trivializes genuine victims of hate. Cynicism that risks reinforcing stereotypes that the Jewish community here locally, and throughout the world, have fought hard to dispel.”

BerMax reported a robbery at their location in the 1800 block of Corydon last Thursday. Police said the place had been trashed, a woman had been sent to hospital and anti-Semitic graffiti had been painted throughout the restaurant.

Smyth said he had no indication of a motive on Wednesday.

Const. Rob Carver said during a press conference last week that he had never seen a hate crime incident quite like this one.

Carver said the restaurant had been targeted before. On Wednesday, Smyth couldn’t say with certainty if the owners carried out those crimes, too, but said there’s a probability they did.

Smyth said Wednesday that the injured woman was one of the owners.

“I don’t believe the injuries were significant,” Smyth said.

Investigators poured more than 1,000 hours into the investigation over the holiday weekend as police tried to piece together the puzzle.

“We treated this and took it seriously at face value, and I suspect we will do that in the future as well,” Smyth said. “Hence my disappointment that someone would use this type of hate and racism for God knows what purpose here.”

Smyth said a combination of video surveillance, forensic evidence and interviews that led investigators to the conclusion they made.

Alexander Berent, 56, Oxana Berent, 48, and Maxim Berent, 29, have been released on a promise to appear. They are scheduled to be in court later in May.

Copyright Postmedia Network Inc., 2019

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