- The Washington Times - Thursday, April 25, 2019

An investigation into an attack on a Jewish-owned cafe in Winnipeg resulted in charges against the owners after police said they staged the robbery, vandalism and anti-Semitic graffiti.

The three owners of the BerMax Caffe & Bistro— Alexander Berent, Oxana Berent and Maxim Berent— were each charged with a count of criminal mischief Wednesday stemming from the April 18 incident. The Berents have maintained their innocence.

“In the end, we found evidence of a crime. It just wasn’t a hate crime,” said Winnipeg Police Service Chief Danny Smyth at a press conference posted on CBC.

In a statement, the department said, “Investigators believe that the initial report of a robbery was staged. Further, the anti-semitic graffiti and vandalism were also falsely reported as being done by outside suspects.”



Chief Smyth said he was “hugely disappointed and frankly angry that this family has used hate and racism in such a disingenuous way.”

“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,” he said at a press conference shown on CBC News.

The café has reported several hate crimes since being founded in 2015 by the Berent family, according to the Canadian Jewish News, raising questions about whether those attacks were faked.

“BerMax has been subjected to numerous alleged anti-Semitic attacks in the recent past,” said CJN. “The restaurant was pelted with eggs last year and, more recently, both in late January and early February, the word ‘Jew’ was painted in its door and window, as well as on a nearby fence.”



In the latest episode, the family-owned eatery was vandalized and 48-year-old Oxana Berent was hospitalized after being allegedly assaulted.

She has insisted that the family didn’t stage the crime. “We didn’t, because we don’t joke about swastikas on our walls,” Ms. Berent told CBC Manitoba radio on the show “Up to Speed.”

More than 25 officers spent nearly 1,000 hours on the investigation after the attack was reported on the eve of Passover, the chief said.

The Jewish Federation of Winnipeg said it was “shocked and deeply disturbed” by the allegations.

“It is deplorable that anyone would make false allegations of antisemitism, especially claims of such a serious nature, for any kind of gain,” said the federation in a Facebook post. “Filing false complaints of criminal acts of antisemitism are not only illegal, they undermine the important work necessary to counter antisemitism and hate in all forms.”

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