The 'most brazen act of anti-Semitism' in Winnipeg turned out to be entirely staged, police say

YouTube/CBC News: The NationalPhotos show the damage to a restaurant after an allegedly staged hate crime, according to Winnipeg Police.
  • A hate crime against a Jewish-owned Kosher Italian restaurant in Winnipeg, Canada, turned out to be staged by the family who owned the business, police said Wednesday.
  • The alleged hate crime had horrified the community and sparked an outcry against anti-Semitism.
  • The three restaurant owners have been charged with one count of public mischief each.
  • Visit INSIDER’s homepage for more stories.

A brutal attack on a Jewish-owned Kosher Italian restaurant that left dishes smashed, tables and chairs flipped, and a swastika spray-painted on the walls turned out to be entirely staged by the restaurant’s owners, police in the Canadian city of Winnipeg said Wednesday.

The alleged hate crime had horrified the community and sparked an outcry against anti-Semitism – particularly since the same restaurant had been targeted with similar vandalism four times in the last five months, according to police.

“It’s the most brazen act of anti-Semitism that we’ve seen in our community, and perhaps ever,” Adam Levy, the communications director of the Jewish Federation of Winnipeg, told CBC News.

But the purported victims who owned the BerMax CaffĂ© and Bistro – Alexander, Oxana, and Maxim Berent – were actually the perpetrators, Winnipeg police said. All three were charged Wednesday with one count of public mischief.

The family even allegedly faked an assault on Oxana Berent as part of the staged hate crime, police said.

Winnipeg Police Chief Danny Smyth even suggested at a press conference that the four previous incidents at the restaurant had a “probability” of being similarly staged.

“I am 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,” Smyth told reporters at a press conference. “Cynicism that trivialises genuine victims of hate, cynicism that risks reinforcing stereotypes that the Jewish community here locally and throughout the world have fought hard to dispel.”

Smyth said that the incident diverted “significant resources” from the police department’s major crimes, forensics, and general patrol divisions, culminating in 25 officers investing nearly 1,000 hours over a busy holiday weekend.

“In the end, we found evidence of a crime; it just wasn’t a hate crime,” Smyth said.

He added that it was too early to determine a motive for the incident, but CBC News reported that the family had run into financial difficulties, and had been ordered by a judge to pay $US112,000 to the Business Development Bank of Canada over an unpaid loan.

The Berents have vehemently denied that they faked the attack. Oxana and Maxim Berent even took to CBC Manitoba’s afternoon radio show, “Up to Speed,” to insist they were not guilty and would never invent such a crime.

“What is happening yesterday and today, it’s completely broke our family, our business, everything,” Oxana Berent said. “My grandmother’s family, they died in the Holocaust. Just her and her little brother survived. The whole family. We don’t joke about that.”

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