Unsettled Montreal Mob leadership means arson and reprisals to continue: experts

Unsettled Montreal Mob leadership means arson and reprisals to continue: experts

Organized crime experts say that the era which saw charismatic peacemaker Vito Rizzuto, who died of natural causes in 2013, rule for three decades will be replaced by something altogether different. Rizzuto, right, reputed head of the Montreal Mafia, speaks with his attorney Jean Salois after his hearing in Montreal in a February 6, 2004, file photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL — A spate of recent Montreal-area arsons linked to organized crime suggests the battle for Mafia leadership in Quebec remains fractured, experts say.

What is likely, they say, is the era that saw charismatic peacemaker Vito Rizzuto rule for three decades will be replaced by something altogether different.

Author and university lecturer Antonio Nicaso said the Mafia will regenerate through the conflicts and death. What will emerge, he suggests, is a structure that is more democratic and open to joint ventures with other criminal groups.

“They will find another type of organizational structure to put in place,” Nicaso said. “It won’t be the same type of organization that controlled Montreal for 30 years, a type of Mafia monarchy that controlled everything with a charismatic boss.”

Rizzuto, who died of natural causes in 2013, was viewed as a unifying underworld force, and instability has been the order of the day since his time in a U.S. prison and his death.

Andre Cedilot, an ex-journalist who writes about organized crime, says the battle now appears to pit Calabrian clans that are battling for power against the last remnants of the Rizzuto loyalists, many of whom are Sicilian. The Calabrians are being assisted by Ontario-based groups.

Cedilot says there is a move to seek a more equitable division of territory and rackets through partnerships with street gangs and the re-emerging Hells Angels.

“For sure, it’s changing because the clans that were all-powerful, like the Rizzuto clan, we can say they are in the process of disappearing,” said Cedilot.

The various arsons this year, including one that levelled a strip mall in Laval, followed a handful of high-profile killings last year.

Lorenzo Giordano, described as a Rizzuto underboss, was killed last March, while Rocco Sollecito, a former Rizzuto right-hand man according to police documents, was slain in May. Another ex-Rizzuto associate was killed in October.

At least three attempts to reorganize the leadership structure have failed in recent years — the last falling apart in November 2015 with the arrests of Leonardo Rizzuto and Stefano Sollecito as well as biker and street gang associates.

Police identified the younger Sollecito and Rizzuto as the heads of the Italian Mafia and said an alliance of the Mob, criminal biker gangs and street gangs was set up to maintain control of drug trafficking and money laundering in Montreal.

Pierre de Champlain, an author and ex-RCMP analyst, suggests the next leader will be homegrown.

“I find it difficult to see anyone coming from outside of Montreal coming in here to become leader of the Montreal Mafia,” de Champlain said. “The next leader will be someone from Montreal, who grew up in Montreal.”

Sidhartha Banerjee, The Canadian Press

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