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The reputed head of Montreal's Mafia may owe his life to the police.

With arrests that required the intervention of a police tactical team, Quebec provincial police say they have stopped a plot to kill Vito Rizzuto and two of his associates.

Christian Deschênes, 44, of Lorraine, and Denis-Rolland Girouard, 50, of Saint-Sauveur, were charged Saturday with conspiracy to murder Mr. Rizzuto and another man, Francesco Arcadi. The two suspects were also charged with conspiracy to kidnap a third acquaintance of Mr. Rizzuto, Frank Martorana.

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Searching the home of Mr. Deschênes, police say they found an arsenal: one Kalashnikov-style automatic rifle, two 9-mm pistols, one .357 magnum revolver, two bulletproof vests and several ammunition clips and walkie-talkies.

Mr. Deschênes's girlfriend, Céline Côté, 48, was charged with possession of a prohibited weapon and three restricted weapons.

Mr. Deschênes is described by police as a construction entrepreneur from a small town north of Montreal.

Investigators aren't clear why anyone would dare conspire to kill such a notorious target as Mr. Rizutto.

Mr. Rizzuto is "the godfather of the Italian Mafia in Montreal," according to court documents filed by Revenue Canada, which accuses him of failing to declare more than $1.5-million in revenues.

In a recent court hearing, Montreal police testified that, thanks to an informer wearing a wire who had infiltrated the Hells Angels, they had evidence that the Mafia supplied the biker gang with cocaine and agreed with them on resale prices.

At the same time, relations between the two organized-crime syndicates were uneasy.

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After six years of turf war against other biker gangs, Quebec's Hells Angels last year had virtually eliminated all other rivals. Police say that the Hells Angels found that the Mafia was the only criminal group standing in the way of their desire to have a monopoly over Montreal's illegal drug trade.

But before anything erupted between the two sides, the top leaders of the Quebec Hells Angels were arrested last March in a massive police operation.

Mr. Deschênes and Mr. Girouard were being followed by police when a tactical team arrested them Friday night as they were driving in separate cars, following each other, in the St-Leonard district, in north-end Montreal.

Police believe the two men were on their way to a nearby café, reputed to be a hangout of Mafia members.

"They weren't armed. They were going to check out the place," said Sûreté du Québec Constable Pierre Robichaud, a provincial police spokesman.

Police say they also discovered 300 marijuana plants at Mr. Girouard's residence.

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The two arrested men had been under the surveillance of the provincial police for three months. The investigation began after the Montreal Urban Community police tipped off the provincial police about several potential holdups.

While checking that information, provincial police investigators discovered the plot to kill Mr. Rizzuto, police said.

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