Italian prosecutors have named seven Ontario men, including the former head of a company that once held contracts with major Canadian cities, in warrants issued for alleged members of a powerful organized crime syndicate.
The raids in Italy this week resulted in 53 arrests, the latest of some 300 since July targeting the 'Ndrangheta, a clan-based Mafia group that grew out of the southern Italian province of Calabria.
One of the most prominent figures charged is Alessandro Figliomeni, former mayor of the Calabrian town of Siderno, where many of the men charged are based. Prosecutors laid out a laundry list of illegal activities attributed to the organization, including drug trafficking, money laundering, extortion and political interference.
Among the accused in Canada is Salvatore Oliveti, 46,who founded Olifas Marketing Group Inc., which once contracted with Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa to handle advertising on outdoor trash cans. The company was thrust into the public eye in 2003 when Montreal mobster Vito Rizzuto was arrested for impaired driving in an OMG-owned jeep.
"Mr. Olivetti is shocked and mystified by the Italian warrant," Toronto lawyer Joseph Markson said. "He denies any association to the Mafia in Italy or anywhere in the world."
The other Ontario men accused in connection with the investigation are Angelo Figliomeni, 48, Cosimo Figliomeni, 45; Tito Figliomeni, 41; Francesco Commisso, 62; Vincenzo Figliomeni, 64; and Domenico Giorgini, 45. Mr. Giorgini was arrested in Italy, while the others are still free.
The Calabrian mob is seen as increasingly powerful worldwide - rivalling if not replacing the traditional Sicilian-based Mafia. In Canada, the 'Ndrangheta has been centred in Southern Ontario, while the Sicilians controlled Montreal.
"Canada is an important hideout, a place where many fugitives hide," said Italian magistrate Nicola Gratteri, in a recent telephone interview as he travelled through the troubled region of Calabria.
Mr. Gratteri, who has helped lead the sweeping offensive against the 'Ndrangheta, said Italian authorities had identified nine "locali" or family-based clans operating in Ontario, one in Thunder Bay.
But Italian authorities were frustrated with the slow pace of investigations and arrests in Canada, he said, and wanted more co-operation with the RCMP: "The 'Ndrangheta is going global, so law enforcement has to do the same," he said.
Canadian investigators point out that Italian laws - and their standards of evidence - are different. Simply being associated with the Mafia is a crime in Italy, but it is not a crime - much less an indictable offence - in Canada.
A senior RCMP commander who monitors organized crime said Italians had to understand the different priorities police face in Canada. "The Mafia are the big dogs there," he said. "But we are dealing with many powerful crime groups of which Mafia is just one."
There have, however, been past cases in which convicted 'Ndranghetta associates were deported from Canada to Italy. In 2005, Antonio Commisso, a high-ranking capo, was arrested and sent back after fleeing to Woodbridge to escape a conviction of association with the Mafia. In 2008, Giuseppe Coluccio was deported from Toronto to Italy to face a similar charge.
According to reports in the Italian media, prosecutors alleged the Canadian wing of the organization is allegedly headed by the Figliomeni family and once clashed with other, unnamed organized crime figures in Ontario over the opening of a bar.