Updated news on the Gambino, Genovese, Bonanno, Lucchese and Colombo Organized Crime Families of New York City.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Full-out war for supremacy in Montreal’s underworld

Nick, Paolo, Agostino, and Nicolò. The list stops at four for now, but there are those who swear more names will be added. The Mafia war in fact, makes no exceptions, whether it involves the bloodied heart of Palermo, or whether it touches the seemingly more tranquil Montreal neighbourhoods. And when it begins, it spares no one: not even a powerful clan such as the Rizzutos that for years have dominated all of Quebec and parts of Canada uncontested.
The year 2010 can be remembered for the fall of the untouchables. And 2011, according to many experts, will be the critical year that will decide who assumes power once the historic clan falls. What is certain is that the Rizzutos are practically decimated after the deaths of Nick, Paolo Renda, Agostino Cuntrera, and godfather Nicolò. And without any heads able to take over, an entire hierarchy that no one previously dared to question, may topple. In fact, they were the ones to decide who was a “good” guy and who was “bad” and needed to be eliminated. They controlled the drug trafficking, laundering dirty money, and all the other illicit activities such as extortion.
It’s this control that came to be questioned by the other underworld criminal organizations operating in Montreal. They likely waited many years before executing their vendettas. Paving the way was Vito’s arrest for triple homicide. The boss, currently being held in a Colorado prison, is to be released in 2012. Those who had decided to put an end to the Rizzuto clan would at this point already have a plan in place for assuming final control – in anticipation of the final setting of accounts with the boss when he is freed. The rather obvious objective is to create a “scorched earth” surrounding him. Mafia experts all agree on this point.
There is less agreement when trying to identify those responsible for these killings that have bloodied the streets of Montreal. Naturally, the reason behind the killings is for the power and business interests administered by the clan. But some experts ascertain that there are other reasons. One needs to go back as far as 1978 when Paul Violi was killed while playing cards in a Little Italy Montreal bar. That homicide, in fact, represented the consignment of power from the Calabrian clan to the Sicilian one which then ruled uncontested for 32 years. The Calabrians, already present especially in Toronto, are exacting their revenge – an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.
“Other than the pageantry of the funerals designed to confirm the power that the Rizzuto family still has or believes they have,” said ’Ndrangheta (Calabrian Mafia) expert Francesco Forgione, who is also a former president of the anti-Mafia parliamentary commission, “the deaths of the clan members may signal the end of a cycle. And which could lead us back to the growing power that the ’Ngrangheta has acquired in the United States. Let’s not forget that the Canadian ‘ndrine’ (’Ndrangheta members) participate in reunions in Calabria, and have a very important strategic role. It’s likely that the Calabrian clans want to end cycle with the ratification of the acquisition of their hegemony on an international level.”
“If it’s true that Toronto’s ’Ndrangheta is taking control in Quebec,” specifies criminologist Stephen Schneider, “what has happened could have various implications.”
An accounting of events is largely merciless: in fact there have been four killings without the clan able to take its revenge. It began on December 28, 2009, with Nick, Vito’s son and godfather Nicolò’s grandson, who was felled by gunshots in the heart of downtown Montreal. Following was the disappearance in May of 2010 of Paolo Renda, Nicolò’s son-in-law and officially number three in the organization. It is being considered abduction, but everyone knows it to be a case of “lupara biancha” (Mafia-style killing where body is not found) and that his family will likely not see him alive again. In June, Agostino Cuntrera was executed in the ongoing settling of accounts. Then Nov. 11 was the killing of Nicolò, felled in his own home by a hired killer. The great godfather had temporarily taken control of the clan’s reigns in anticipation of the release from prison of Vito.
To most keen observers, Vito appears to be evermore isolated and may well be the next target, thus finalizing the plan for the extermination of the clan.
“The cycle is ending with the victory by the Calabrians,” confirms Forgione, “always with the assumption that it was the Calabrians who wanted the end of the Rizzutos. The Sicilian family currently has no bosses able to face such an attack. What remains however, are the economic activities.” This could well be the key to explaining the failure by Canada’s most important Mafia family to take its revenge. “Most probably,” Forgione continues, “they’ve taken note of existing balances of power, and have realized they are weaker than their rivals. Which would not allow them to unleash an adequate response on a warfare level, and may force them to declare defeat in an attempt to at least preserve their activities and entire financial empire, as they await better times.”
None of the Rizzutos, in fact, have asked for police help or protection notwithstanding the repeated warnings by authorities of the dangers they faced. As well as the killings, rivals have also taken aim on Italian restaurants and cafés – some of which were reference points for the area’s criminal activities. Tuesday’s Café Calypso’s fire could be another in an ongoing series, though there is still little information regarding this incident. The “rubber wall” put up by those same criminal organizations certainly do nothing to help police in ensuring there will be no further victims in this unending settling of accounts – it is a settling of accounts that according to observers, doesn’t even fall into the “game of the Mafia” which has always preferred to operate as quietly as possible. Meanwhile, people in the streets of Montreal continue to be uneasy due to the fires and killings over the past several months. And according to what observers feel that 2011 has in store, it is not very reassuring. And many believe that 2012 – which is when Vito Rizzuto is released from prison – is the year to watch.
Only then can there be a definitive settling of accounts, or further vendettas – this time by the Sicilian boss, to avenge the killings of family and friends. The Mafia, unfortunately, never forgets – whether it involves the Rizzutos, or his yet unnamed rivals. 



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