TORONTO – An electronic bug burrowed deep inside a laundromat in Italy, part of the largest strike yet against the Calabrian ‘ndrangheta, overheard something that stunned police.
A Calabrian crime cell is operating in isolated Thunder Bay in northern Ontario.
The surveillance device in the business owned by the Commisso clan in Siderno, Calabria, overheard Giuseppe Bruzzese, 64, a clan member from the lakehead group.
He was speaking with his ‘ndrangheta overlord about a dispute with a Toronto group, according to a report, Project Crimine, written by Italian magistrates.
The project shows how widespread the ‘ndrangheta is in Canada and that its network is capable of replacing the now weakened Rizzuto clan, which until recently was Mafia royalty.
The recent violence against the once-mighty Rizzuto crime family in Montreal is reverberating in the Toronto area where the Sicilians’ grip on the drug trade is being threatened.
The Calabrians have long been established in the Toronto area and coexisted with the Rizzutos.
But that may now all change.
The ‘ndrangheta is considered by Italian authorities to be more powerful, richer and better able to distribute drugs globally than any Mafia group.
On Thursday, police in Calabria seized the laundromat where Giuseppe “Master” Commisso allegedly operated his empire along with 140 condos and a commercial mall owned by his clan, considered by Italian authorities to be one of the richest in the world.
The seized properties are worth about $280 million, police said.
In July, Project Crimine netted more than 300 members and associates of the ‘ndrangheta.
Along with uncovering the Thunder Bay clan, the report also revealed six Calabrian mobs tied to Siderno that are based in the Toronto area.
The extensive report also identifies the leaders of the Toronto area clans as Vincenzo Tavernese, 44, of Thornhill, and Giuseppe Andriano, 62, of Vaughan; Antonio Coluccio, 41, of Richmond Hill; Cosimo Commisso; Angelino Figliomeni, 48, of Woodbridge, and his brother, Cosimo Figliomeni, of Vaughan; and Vincenzo DeMaria, 56, of Mississauga.
DeMaria, a convicted killer, was arrested in April 2009 for breaching parole and has since been released.
Tavernese was arrested in Italy in July while Coluccio who was wanted on arrest warrants in Italy disappeared.
But Coluccio’s lawyers appealed the warrants and a judge ruled there wasn’t enough evidence to file charges in Italy but he is wanted by Canadian immigration authorities.
The other men, named in the Italian report, aren’t wanted by Canadian police.
The report also looked at the organized crime group’s activities around the world, particularly in Canada, Germany, Switzerland and Australia.
Italian authorities say there are five forms of traditional organized crime in Italy, the Sicilian Mafia, the Calabrian ‘ndrangheta, the Neapolitan Camorra, the Sacra Corona Unita based in areas of Puglia in southern Italy and the Stidda, based in Sicily.
The ‘ndrangheta, derived from the Greek word “andrangetos” meaning a valiant and cunning man, has had a strong presence in the Toronto area for decades, and was dubbed the Siderno Group because most of the families came from the town of Siderno in Calabria.
Police discovered in 1968 the cells in Ontario were governed by a central board called the La Camera di Controllo.
The first board formed by Giacomo Luppino, of Hamilton, in 1962 consisted of Michele Racco, who died in 1980, Salvatore Triumbari who was murdered in 1967, Filippo Vendemini, murdered in 1969, Rocco Zito, Vincenzo Deleo and Cosimo Stalteri.
Authorities now believe the ‘ndrangheta has surpassed the Sicilian Mafia in power and its ability to distribute drugs – including cocaine – around the world.
Police say there are about 160 ‘ndrangheta cells with about 6,000 members in Italy, worth an estimated $61.2 billion in assets.
The ‘ndrangheta’s structure is different than the Mafia.
Its cells are based on family ties and don’t have rigid vertical lines of authority. Cell members don’t always know what other members are doing and the groups allow for freelancing.
The Italian report noted the existing strong ties between ‘ndrangheta cells in Canada and Italy.
“Even today the Commissos of Siderno – through their most illustrious member Giuseppe ‘Master’ Commisso – continues to influence the policy of all the ‘ndrangheta … to settle the criminal issues, even the most distant,” it said.
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