Where are the mafiosi? Who are the crime lords supervising outlaw empires enforced by malevolent threats and careful applications of explosive violence? Eyeball the kids’ soccer coach. Look at the owner of the garden centre, the local baker, the construction magnate, the stockbroker and the businessman doling out charity and political donations, said an Ontario police investigator testifying at a public inquiry into corruption in Quebec.
Detective Mike Amato of York Regional Police’s organized crime section said the Mafia has a wide presence in Canada but hides through infiltration of business, community and politics.
“They don’t want us to know about their legitimate businesses; they don’t want us to know about their wealth; they don’t want us to know about interaction in public life,” Det. Amato said.
“If you accept that [the Mafia] exists, you have to accept that public corruption exists,” he said, because organized crime would not survive without it.
While Canada’s mob clans often co-operate to maximize profit, the most successful mobsters nurture a relationship with polite society as much as with underworld conspirators.
“It’s important [for modern mafiosi] to be integrated into the community and everyone loves a good businessman; everyone loves someone who is successful, whether it’s an accountant, whether it’s a banker,” Det. Amato said.
“A lot of persons who we have identified, who we suspect are part of the ’Ndrangheta or part of the Cosa Nostra, do operate legitimate businesses,” he said, using the formal names of two strains of the Mafia originating in Italy’s regions of Calabria and Sicily.
“These businesses vary from garden centres to financial institutions to bakeries to limousine businesses to waste disposal companies to banquet halls, nightclubs. There really is no limit to what they can do,” he said, adding trucking, homebuilding and stock manipulation as mob moneymakers.
Testifying in Montreal, he said investigations revealed mobsters have been youth soccer coaches and active philanthropists in political campaigns, hospital fundraising and other charities.
It allows them to hide their true nature and “to turn bad money into good,” he said.
The corporatization of crime will be a key focus of the Charbonneau Commission, called by Quebec to probe corruption in the province’s construction industry.
Det. Amato said governments should alert police of who bids for public works contracts to be probed ahead of time.
Det. Amato said the Montreal’s Rizzuto clan, a Sicilian-based crime group, has controlled Quebec’s underworld while Ontario’s top gangsters were generally of Calabrian background.
In Ontario, the mob has been able to reduce scrutiny by avoiding the violence that rocked Quebec since the arrest in 2004 of Vito Rizzuto, the Montreal boss.
“If there is numerous murders, if there’s a lot of violence, if there is a lot of bombings, it attracts attention. It attracts attention from politicians, it attracts attention from the community, it attracts attention from the police,” Det. Amato said.
“You cannot build a successful criminal enterprise if you are continually being investigated and monitored by the police. If you stay under the radar, you are going to expand.”
Adrian Humphreys, National Post