Police target organized crime in Montreal area and arrest more than 70 people
Wed Nov 22, 5:43 PM

By Peter Rakobowchuk

MONTREAL (CP) - The arrest of 82-year-old Nicolo Rizzuto and other alleged top-ranking mobsters is a "significant blow" to organized crime in Montreal, says an author who has written extensively on the Mafia.

Rizzuto, Francesco Arcadi and Paolo Renda were among more than 70 people arrested Wednesday when some 700 police officers swooped down on residences in the Montreal area.

"We're dealing with people who for decades were able to avoid any kind of investigation in Canada," Mafia expert Antonio Nicaso said in an interview.

"Nick Rizzuto is a very respected mobster. . .he was born and married into the Mob. . .He was the (Montreal) godfather in the '70s and he always played an important role in the Rizzuto crime family.

"You can identify him as one of the last of the untouchables. . very clever, very smart and for many years he played this role of the old man capable of providing advice and counsel to anyone."

Rizzuto is the father of Vito Rizzuto, who was deported to the United States earlier this year to face charges related to the murder of three members of the reputed Bonanno crime family in New York.

Nicaso said police scored a major coup in nabbing Arcadi and Renda, Rizzuto's son-in law.

"Renda was very powerful," said Nicaso, who went on to describe Arcadi as "the face of the Rizzuto crime family on the street" and a candidate to replace Vito Rizzuto when he was deported.

"Actually, he travelled to Toronto after the arrest of Vito just to meet with other mobsters and to guarantee them that (it was) going to be business as usual."

The arrests are a "significant blow" to organized crime in the city, he added.

Police were expected to lay more than 1,000 charges against dozens of people, including a Canada Border Services Agency employee and about 10 people who worked at Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport.

RCMP Cpl. Luc Bessette said the airport employees were helping organized crime import cocaine into Canada.

"We think it is a very serious blow to Italian organized crime," Bessette said of the raids.

He said a second Canada Border Services Agency employee is being sought in connection with the seizure of 300 kilograms of cocaine. It was found recently in a container on a train that arrived in Montreal from the United States.

The charges to be laid include attempted murder, drug dealing, gangsterism, extortion, bookmaking and possession of restricted weapons.

The RCMP, Montreal police and Quebec provincial police took part in the raids, which also included the seizure of houses and bank accounts.

Bessette said Project Colisee began two years ago and that some of those arrested were involved in online sports betting.
"We're talking about millions of dollars over a few years," he added.
Bessette said more than C$3million and US$255,000 was also seized during the police raids.
The RCMP spokesman described the operation as "the biggest one aimed at traditional Italian organized crime that's ever been seen so far in Canada."
Nicaso said Rizzuto has been convicted only once - in the '80s for drug trafficking in Venezuela.
He added that the senior Rizzuto was "practically forced to take charge of the organization" after his son's arrest and extradition.
Nicaso said Rizzuto left Sicily in 1954 to establish himself in Montreal and he eventually emerged as the new godfather of the Mafia.
It will be "a difficult task" for the Mob to regroup and identify the next crime boss, he added.
In Ottawa, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said he was "very pleased" with how the operation went.
"So far the reports are there were no casualties and a wide range of arrests that took place," Day said outside a Tory caucus meeting.

Copyright 2006 Canadian Press