column was published in the North
Shore News on
Mar. 1, 2000)
helping organized crime flourish
By Leo Knight
conviction in Toronto last week of Alfonso Caruana was a
stunning victory for Canadian law enforcement in the fight
against organized crime.
was the top guy in the Cuntrera-Caruana mob family. After Paulo
Violi was found stuffed into the trunk of his own car in 1978,
victim of a struggle for control of Toronto's underworld,
Caruana began moving his assets from his base in Venezuela to
Canada. The alliance with the Cuntreras allowed Caruana to elbow
the pretenders aside.
an established drug supply line (his sister married the
brother-in-law of Pablo Escobar, kingpin of what was to become
the Medellin Cartel) the die was cast for him to change the face
of the Mafia in Canada.
years the Gambino crime family from New York controlled the
Mafia in Canada. (The Gambinos were one of the five New York
families who made up the nucleus of the infamous "Murder
"Vic" Cotroni was described in a 1973 Royal Commission
on crime as the "Godfather of Montreal." Together with
brothers Pepe and Frank, the Cotronis built a fortune with the
backing of the Gambinos.
had their fingers in many things: unions, ports, loan-sharking,
gambling, protection rackets. But, moreover, they were the first
of the traditional organized crime families to recognize the
gold mine that heroin represented.
Cotroni was only a young man when he helped set up the so-called
"French Connection" links to get Far Eastern opium,
processed in labs in Marseilles and Lyon, and then muled into
the great waiting markets in North America.
connections to the Mafia in Canada were underlined when, in
1964, a federal deputy minister tried to bribe a U.S. assistant
district attorney with $20,000 not to oppose the bail of Lucien
Rivard, a notorious underworld figure and business associate of
resulting scandal forced the resignation of a cabinet minister
and very nearly toppled the government of Lester Pearson.
the pressure put on the Cotronis throughout the latter part of
the '70s, and with the murder of Paulo Violi in 1978, the
Cuntrera-Caruanas stepped into the opening.
with them came a new way for the mob to conduct business. The
old guard -- the Gambinos, the Bonnanos, Johnny "Pops"
Papalia in Hamilton -- were still the traditional La Cosa
Nostra (this thing of ours).
"Bananas" Bonnano retired to Arizona. John Gotti, the
erstwhile Teflon Don (who had taken control of the Gambinos in
the old-fashioned way, killing his boss, Paulo "Big
Paul" Castellano) got put away for the rest of his life by
the FBI after a 10-year investigation. The Vancouver connection,
Joe Gentile, Frank D'Angelo and Jimmy Sanseverino, faded into
new order settled into place controlled by the Cuntrera/Caruanas
in Toronto and the Rizzuto family in Montreal.
began investing their drug money in stock markets as a method of
laundering their ill-gotten gains. They placed their own people
in stock market trading companies, primarily in Vancouver, and
turned the money taps on.
instead of shooting up the streets and making war on each other,
they act as shareholders and invest in legitimate companies.
They form partnerships.
Montreal, the drug trade is controlled by the so-called
"Consortium" an unholy alliance between the Irish West
End Gang, the Hells Angels and the Sicilian Mafia in the guise
of the Rizzutos.
try to keep a low profile knowing that making blood run in the
streets only attracts unwanted police attention -- something the
Chinese gangster learned here in the mid '80s and early '90s and
the upstart Vietnamese have yet to learn judging from what's
going on in the streets of Vancouver, Calgary and Edmonton.
notable exception to all this, of course, is the war between the
Quebec Hells Angels and the Rock Machine, who are looking to
upstage their biker brethren. But that seems unique to the
Quebec situation and thus far has not spread across Canada. Yet.
is the veneer of legitimacy that gives the mob their opportunity
to access the corridors of power. This is what makes the arrest
and conviction of Alfonso Caruana all the more amazing. For more
than a decade the word in law enforcement circles was the he was
the Chretien government has shown little appetite to go after
organized crime. It has slashed and trashed policing budgets to
save comparative pennies while it continues to dole out huge
money under the guise of "job creation" grants.
Nicaso, who has written nine books on the Mafia, said his
research has shown that, "Canada is a laboratory for
no question that organized crime has been allowed to flourish in
this country. From the heroin rings of the Vietnamese gangsters
on the Island, to B.C.'s Hells Angels, (the richest in the biker
world and with them the resurgence of the Italian Mafia in this
city), to the huge drug-funded empire of the Cuntrera/Caruana
family and the Consortium in Quebec. Not to mention the Chinese
gangsters who are stronger and more numerous than the rest
the federal budget announcements this week and thinking about
the corruption (and there is no other word to describe it) which
permeates the Liberal party in Ottawa, as evidenced by the
"Shovelgate" scandal, I didn't see anything to show me
they give a fig about the problem of organized crime.
why not? You have to understand that these people are so
powerful and rich they could, if they were so inclined, collapse
the economy of this country in a heartbeat simply by causing a
run on the Loonie.
The answer lies in the quote at the top of this column. Read it again.