(This column was published in the North Shore News on Aug. 9, 2000)


Organized criminals love Canada

By Leo Knight

THE message hasn't changed, but maybe, just maybe, something is being done about organized crime at the political level.  


Last week the province of Ontario hosted an international organized crime summit which demonstrated the complete lack of effort and will by the federal government to control the problem.  


Antonio Nicasio, an internationally recognized expert on the subject and the author of nine books detailing the activities of the gangsters, told the assembled participants that Canada is a haven for every major organized criminal group in the world.  


Regular readers will know I've been beating on this drum for the past couple of years. One of the biggest stumbling blocks for law enforcement is the lack of action, caring and possibly even the complicity by the federal government. And, for the most part, the various provincial governments, ours especially, have only added to the problem. But things may be changing.  


Nicasio, an advisor to the Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organized Crime, a York University think tank, pulled no punches addressing the audience of cops, politicians, journalists, prosecutors and government mandarins. He identified the problem neatly when he said it's tougher in Canada to import a case of cheese than a suitcase full of dirty money.  


"Canada has always been a welcome wagon for organized crime," said Nicasio, in a shockingly pointed and direct accusation leveled at the government. His sharp remarks forced RCMP Deputy Commissioner Giuliano "Zack" Zaccardelli, head of the newly formed Organized Crime Directorate, to say the government has done some good things. What exactly those were, he didn't say. But it was interesting to see him in a position to defend the masterful inactivity of the federal government in the face of a crowd stunned by the comments of Nicasio. Well, the non-police part of the crowd actually. The cops know all about it.  


One of the outcomes of the conference was an initiative announced by Ontario's Attorney General Jim Flaherty. Finally a government has realized the way to attack these groups is to go after the money. Flaherty said Ontario will enact legislation allowing the Crown to seize assets. This goes much further than the federal Proceeds of Crime legislation and more closely approximates American statutes.  


Flaherty also called on the Libs to amend the Criminal Code to make it an offence to be a member of an organized crime group. He also made sure he took his shot at the feds. "I think the federal government is in a position of being embarrassed with respect to its failure to make a significant dent in organized crime in this country," he said at the conclusion of the conference.  


One of the other key messages delivered to the summit came from Toronto police chief Julian Fantino. He underlined the concept that the public has to understand that organized crime affects each and every one of us and is not the romantic lifestyle portrayed in Hollywood. He called it a greedy and violent threat to our communities.  


Fantino also beat on the "life must mean life" drum. An interesting point when we compare two organized crime figures in two countries.  


John "Dapper Don" Gotti, former head of the Gambino Mafia family, was convicted in New York under the RICO statute and was sentenced to life imprisonment without the possibility of parole. He is in a maximum-security institute, locked down for 23 out of 24 hours a day. He will die in jail.  


Alphonso Caruana, head of the Cuntrera-Caruana crime family and one of the world's most powerful criminals, was convicted in February in Toronto, of conspiracy to import cocaine and several other offences. The maximum penalty for the offences was life, but he got 18 years. He will be eligible for parole in 2006 and is eligible for day parole and unescorted absences in 2002. He'll probably die in his own bed wearing silk pajamas.  


Fantino put the blame on the federal government and called for tougher laws. "We lack the laws, the resources and the political will to effectively tackle the problem of organized crime," he said. It's the "political will" part of that statement that really has the most significance. How else do we explain the total lack of commitment by the federal government to stop the criminals from taking over our country?  


In the United States, they routinely use the IRS to attack mobsters and their ill-gotten gains. The next time that happens in Canada will be the first time. The feds have an army of people working at Revenue Canada and they consistently bug the little guy over small potatoes while there are Hells Angels living in the British Properties and owning whole blocks in Deep Cove.  


To effectively fight organized crime it is necessary to go after the money. It's the most efficient way to hurt the bad guys. Finally, one government in this country has got the message. Now, if only the federal Liberals will assume their responsibility and demonstrate their allegiance to the citizens of this country and not the gangsters.






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