CEIC Charbonneau: Eric Vecchio: Montreal Police Officer

Eric Vecchio

What to say about today’s events where we were subjected to hours of survaillance video of the Rizutto clan  while Montreal police officer Eric Vecchio provided the play-by-play? If you want the details, Sidhartha Banerjee, has a nice rundown in The Post. 

Here’s my observations of the whole affair, and some of my questions:

  • I can’t believe how sleazy and squalid these offices / clubs look. If this is the high-life Mafia style, I’m thankful for my corner office (is that a Clowns-on-Velvet / Dogs Playing Poker portrait on the wall behind them?) : This looks like the most sordid NBC shakedown ever. It makes Chris Hansen’s To Catch A Predator look like an episode of Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.
  • The Christmas party, December 24th, 2005: this is the best they can do? A paper plate of baked ziti and a shot of Dewers in a paper cup?
  • Vecchio looks like the guy who farted in the CEIC room, like he’d rather be anywhere than these hearings. 
  • And who can blame him? When asked if the RCMP shared the tapes with other law enforcement, his embarrassing response? “We tried to contact them, but they never returned our calls”. Really?! A note to the RCMP / SPVM / SQ: you all play in the same sandbox. Now stop insulting us, and start acting like the law enforcement agencies that we know you can be: ones that live up to their potential and work together to solve the crime problems of our society. You’ll be surprised how sexy you look in the mirror. 
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Party People, Do the Rizzuto Sock Stuff!

# CEIC Charbonneau Commission: This just gets better and better:

First came names and now a Quebec corruption inquiry is watching video of construction bosses handing over cash to Mafia chieftains at a notorious Sicilian Mafia hangout in Montreal.

A local police detective is showing surveillance video of prominent construction bosses and high-ranking members of the Rizzuto clan exchanging and counting cash.

Some of the video shows the late Niccolo Rizzuto — the onetime don of the country’s most powerful crime family — stuffing cash into his socks.

A businessman seen at the hangout 236 times over the span of two years was identified by an investigator as a “middle man” between the construction industry and the once-dominant Rizzuto clan.

Eric Vecchio, a Montreal police detective working with the Charbonneau Commission, says the video demonstrates that one member of the Rizzuto hierarchy, Rocco Sollecito, was in charge of dealing with construction cash.

The videos were shot during Operation Colisee, a five-year investigation that culminated with mass arrests in 2006 in the largest sweep against the Italian Mafia in Canadian history.

But the RCMP says it never used the evidence gathered on the videos — because because it wasn’t pertinent to its drug investigation. The Mounties fought in court, unsuccessfully, to keep from sharing the evidence at the public inquiry.

The Charbonneau Commission, which is looking into criminal corruption in the construction industry and its ties to organized crime and political parties, gained that evidence after a court battle with the Mounties.

The commission’s own investigators have been able to identify certain construction industry executives not identified by the RCMP.

The language spoken on the videos is mainly a Sicilian dialect.

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#CEIC Charbonneau Commission: More RCMP testimony on tap for today

Linda Féquière

I was largely missing from watching the hearing yesterday. Thanks to Monique Muise at The Gazette I stayed on top of it. The Commission mostly heard testimony from the RCMP (Corporal Vinicio Sebastiano, and Corporal Linda Féquière). Sebastiano testified that the RCMP’s Project Colisée  (2000 – 2006) was focused on putting away Mafia drug lords. Whenever construction entrepreneurs or political parties came up on the 35,000 hours of video surveillance, it was largely ignored.  The Commission will likely be taking a grater interest in those tapes in the coming days. The RCMP was forced to hand over all their information from Project Colisee in March. From Muise:

The Charbonneau Commission, in contrast, is very interested in those tapes, and in the list of visitors to the two mob hangouts entered into evidence Tuesday. That list includes the names Tony Magi, Michel Argento and Francesco (Frank) Catania, among others.

Magi was spotted at both clubs a handful of times, often in the company of his legitimate business partner, Nick Rizzuto Jr., who was gunned down in late-2009 outside Magi’s offices. Magi himself survived a brazen assassination attempt while driving in N.D.G. in 2008, and his wife survived a similar shooting incident last year. Magi has never been directly linked to the Mafia.

In related news, the focus of Project Colisee, Vito Rissoto is to be released from a Colorado prison on October 6th.

 

Watch the hearings here.

Follow on Twitter: Monique Muise (Gazette) @monique_muise ,  Stephane Giroux (CTV) @SGirouxCTV,  AD Humphreys (Mafia expert)  @AD_Humphrey

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#CEIC Charbonneau Commission: Linda Fèquiere

The RCMP’s Linda Fèquiere takes the stand this morning. After hearing about the Mafia in Italy, New York and Ontarion we will now hear about the Mafia in Quebec’s backyard:    

Watch the hearings here.

Follow on Twitter: Monique Muise (Gazette) @monique_muise ,  Stephane Giroux (CTV) @SGirouxCTV,  AD Humphreys (Mafia expert)  @AD_Humphrey

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CEIC Charbonneau Commission: Joseph Pistone (Donnie Brasco) Testimony

Joseph Pistone (alias Donnie Brasco) , a former FBI agent who infiltrated the New York Mafia is testifying today. Pistone is beginning to make the link between the New York / Sicilian Mafia and the Montreal underworld.

– Pistone says drugs were shipped internationally to Montreal for later delivery to New York.

– Pistone links the Bannano family of New York to the Catroni family of Montreal.

– The shooter from Montreal who was brought down to NYC in 1981 was Vito Rizzuto, to be paroled from Montreal in a few weeks.

Watch the hearings here.

Follow on Twitter: Monique Muise (Gazette) @monique_muise ,  Stephane Giroux (CTV) @SGirouxCTV,  AD Humphreys (Mafia expert)  @AD_Humphrey

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CEIC: Avant Charbonneau, souvenez-vous de la Commission Malouf?

En attendant l’enquête de la construction Charbonneau réunir à nouveau, j’ai pensé qu’il pourrait être une bonne idée de visiter les fantômes du Québec Renseignements publique Passé.

Premièrement, le Québec n’a pas connu de pénurie des enquêtes publiques, ou les appels à une enquête publique. Certains sont bien connus et font partie de notre mémoire collective récente, l’enquête de la Commision Poitras à la Sûreté du Québec, la crise d’Oka Mohawk, l’effondrement du viaduc de Laval.

Le Royal Trust Co. désormais “Whiskey Dix”

Mais qui se souvient Premier Godbout 1943 appel à une enquête sur les pépinières d’hôpital? Ou que dire de l’appel à une enquête de valeurs mobilières lorsque la Compagnie Trust Royal (devenu RBC) déplacé actifs de Montréal à Kingston, à la veille d’une élection générale? A critiques déplacer réclamés a été conçu pour améliorer les craintes économiques d’un Québec indépendant et destablized (Le Québec Saint-Jean-Baptiste Société a appelé “comme répréhensible et avec des conséquences plus graves toute action terroriste” .) Se souvenir de l’affaire Fredy Villanueva? Bien sûr, vous le faites. Mais qu’en est-il du rapport Wagner en service de police d’une force excessive lors de la visite de la Reine de 1964 à Québec? Se souvenir de l’enquête Otto Lang dans le contrôle du trafic aérien entièrement bilingue ? Je ne le pense pas.

 

Jérôme Choquette dans les années 70

Celui-ci a attiré mon attention. En 1970, Roy Fournier, alors président du comité libéral de justice, a appelé à une grande enquête sur les activités de la pègre au Québec, une notion qui alors premier ministre Robert Bourassa a suggéré “pourrait être une bonne idée». Fournier a coûté la pègre était devenu si puissant Québec que seule une enquête publique majeur pourrait vraiment régler le problème. Puis, ministre de la Justice Jérôme Choquette d’accord en disant que jusqu’à 30% des nightclubs de Montréal ont été contrôlés par le Mafia.The précédent premier ministre Daniel Johnson a prévenu que,

“La pègre a envahi un nombre alarmant d’entreprises légitimes au Québec et appelé à une action immédiate du gouvernement pour freiner les opérations de la pègre».

Ahh, ce qui est passé est un prologue!

Bon, je vais arrêter d’être insolent et arriver à ce qui est vraiment dans mon esprit. Oui, mon point est que Duchesneau, Amato, Tenti, etc … sont tous chante une chanson du passé, mais le vrai éléphant dans la pièce est l’Enquête publique de la Commission Malouf dans Jeux Olympiques de Jean Drapeau de Montréal en 1976, et que nous avons appris quelque chose de cette ?

Albert Malouf

Permettez-moi de planter le décor, et m’arrêter quand tout cela commence à sonner familier. C’est 1977 et le Québec se réveille au fait qu’ils n’ont pas obtenu ce qu’ils ont payé. Deuxième acte du maire Drapeau à l’Expo 67 était censé coûter aux contribuables 120 millions de dollars, mais le prix à payer pour les Jeux Olympiques ont atteint 1,6 milliards de dollars (c’est vrai, “The Big Oh” … la dette finalement pris sa retraite en 2006). Le Parti québécois sont frais hors de leur victoire provinciale première et René Lévesque (lui-même juste après avoir esquivé une enquête publique pour la fatale hit-and-run d’Edgar Trottier) lance une enquête sur les Jeux, en nommant le juge Albert Malouf à la tête d’un homme à trois commission. Parmi les résultats:

1. Tous les contrats de construction de plus de 1 million de dollars devait avoir l’approbation spéciale du gouvernement. Cette mesure de protection a été contournée par des entrepreneurs qui ont tout simplement demandé une augmentation des contrats multiples en vertu de 1 million de dollars.

2. Le projet a été entièrement contrôlé par un seul homme, l’architecte  Robert Taillibert.

3. La société qui a remporté le contrat pour le stationnement avec une offre de 3,7 M $ a déposé plusieurs contrat augmente et finit par se faire payer 9,7 millions de dollars. Et le contrat n’a pas été exécuté jusqu’à 6 mois après les Jeux ont été achevés.

4. Les entrepreneurs généraux du Québec, Formes-Viau Stationnement, Les Formes de construction du Québec, Sabrice Ltd, Dubé et Dube, Bombardier, Roski Ltd, Stratinor, tous fini par gagner des bénéfices disproportionnés aux services rendus.

5. Roski Ltd, une filiale de Bombardier, a remporté un contrat pour la fourniture de sièges pour les Jeux, même si son offre ne répondait pas aux spécifications établies par la Ville de Montréal.

Le gâchis est le mieux résumée par Ian MacDonald, qui en a écrit une colonne 1978,

“Quand il s’agit de commissions d’enquête du Québec n’est vraiment pas une province comme les autres.

Commissions nommés par le gouvernement à Ottawa et ailleurs souvent se conformer à la maxime du Canada de résoudre un problème en faisant disparaître, les demandes du Québec supposent généralement une vie spectaculaire de la leur. “

MacDonald se passe pour confirmer ce que nous savons déjà, les enquêtes publiques sont spectaculairement mise en scène des actes de théâtre politique. Ils coûtent beaucoup, et finissent généralement boucs émissaires les mauvaises personnes, et esquiver les vrais problèmes.

Dans le cas de la Commission Malouf, les recommandations ont été formulées à la veille de l’élection municipale de Montréal. Il a critiqué le maire Jean Drapeau, et tout le monde largement excusé reste, y compris le gouvernement libéral provincial au pouvoir au moment des Jeux, à la grande consternation de René Lévesque (certains fonctionnaires mais j’ai perdu contre ) …

ET DRAPEAU quand même réussi à gagner l’élection.

Dans la prochaine année, alors que nous regardons comme témoin après témoin est traîné devant la Commission Charbonneau, comme le PLQ, CAQ, PQ jockey pour la position, alors que nous attendons les recommandations de Kabuki cette pantomime, nous pourrions envisager l’ passé et ne pas mettre nos espoirs trop haut.

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CEIC: Before Charbonneau, remember the Malouf Commission?

While we wait for the Charbonneau Construction Inquiry to reconvene, I thought it might be a good idea to visit the Ghosts of Quebec Public Inquiries Past.

First, Quebec has seen no shortage of public inquiries, or calls for public inquiries. Some are well known and form part of our recent collective memory;  the Poitras Commision’s inquiry into the Surete du Quebec,  the Oka Mohawk crisis, the Laval overpass collapse.

The Royal Trust Co. now “Whiskey Dix”

But who remembers Premier Godbout’s 1943 call for an inquiry into hospital nurseries? Or what about the call for a securities inquiry when The Royal Trust Company (became RBC) moved assets from Montreal to Kingston on the eve of a general election? A move critics claimed was designed to enhance economic fears of a destablized and independent Quebec (The Quebec St. John Baptiste Society called it  “as reprehensible and with graver consequences than any terrorist action”.) Remember the Fredy Villanueva affair? Of course you do. But what about the Wagner report into police’s use of excessive force during the 1964 Queen’s visit to Quebec City? Remember the Otto Lang inquiry into fully bilingual air traffic control? I didn’t think so.

 

Jerome Choquette in the 70s

This one caught my attention. In 1970 Roy Fournier, then chairman of the Liberal justice committee, called for a major inquiry into underworld activities in Quebec, a notion that then Premier Robert Bourassa suggested “might be a good idea”. Fournier claimed the criminal underworld had become so powerful in Quebec that only a major public inquiry could really address the problem. Then justice minister Jerome Choquette concurred saying that up 30% of Montreal nightclubs were controlled by the Mafia.The previous premier Daniel Johnson warned that,

“the underworld has invaded an alarming number of legitimate businesses in Quebec and urged immediate government action to curb underworld operations”.

Ahh, what’s past is prologue!

Alright, I’ll stop being cheeky and get to what’s really on my mind. Yes, my point is that Duchesneau, Amato, Tenti, etc… are all singing a song of the past, but the real elephant in the room is the Malouf Commission’s Public Inquiry into Jean Drapeau’s 1976 Montreal Olympics, and did we learn anything from that?

Albert Malouf

Let me set the stage, and stop me when any of this starts sounding familiar. It’s 1977 and Quebec is waking up to the fact that they didn’t get what they paid  for. Mayor Drapeau’s second act to Expo 67 was supposed to cost tax payers $120M, but the price tag for the Olympics reached $1.6B (that’s right, “The Big Oh”… debt finally retired in 2006). The Parti Quebecois are fresh off their first provincial win and Rene Levesque (himself  having just dodged a public inquiry for the fatal hit-and-run of Edgar Trotier) launches an inquiry into the Games, appointing Justice Albert Malouf to head a three-man commission. Among the findings:

1. All construction contracts over $1M had to have special government approval. This safeguard was circumvented by contractors who simply asked for multiple contract increases under $1M.

2. The project was completely controlled by one man, French architect Rober Taillibert.

3. The company that won the contract for parking with a bid of $3.7M filed multiple contract increases and ended up getting paid $9.7M. And the contract was not executed until 6 months after the Games were completed.

4. The chief contractors, Formes du Quebec-Stationnement Viau, Les Formes du Quebec Construction, Sabrice Ltd, Dube and Dube, Bombardier, Roski Ltd, Stratinor, all ended up earning profits disproportionate with the services rendered.

5. Roski Ltd., a subsidiary of Bombardier, won a contract for providing seats for the Games even though its bid did not meet the specifications set by the City of Montreal. 

The whole mess is best summed up by Ian MacDonald who in a 1978 column wrote,

“When it comes to commissions of inquiry Quebec is truly not a province like the others.

Government-appointed commissions in Ottawa and elsewhere often conform to the Canadian dictum of solving a problem by making it go away, Quebec inquiries typically assume a spectacular life of their own.”  

MacDonald goes on to confirm what we already know; Public Inquiries are spectacularly staged acts of political theater. They cost a lot, and usually wind up scapegoating the wrong people, and sidestep solving real problems. 

In the Case of the Malouf Commission, the recommendations came on the eve of the Montreal municipal election. It found fault with Mayor Jean Drapeau, and largely excused everyone else, including the Liberal provincial government in power at the time of the Games, much to the dismay of Rene Levesque  (some civil servants got spanked)…

AND DRAPEAU STILL MANAGED TO WIN THE ELECTION.

 In the next year, while we watch as witness after witness is dragged before the Charbonneau Commission, as the PLQ, CAQ, PQ jockey for position, as we wait for the recommendations from this Kabuki dumb-show, we might want to look to the past and not set our hopes too high.

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CEIC Charbonneau Commission: Day 4 – Mike Amato

Mike Amato, a detective with the York Regional Police in Ontario takes the stand today in the 4th day of Charbonneau hearings this week. Amato is scheduled to appear at 9;30 AM. He apparently is an expert in biker gang activity.

Watch the hearings here.

Follow on Twitter: Monique Muise (Gazette) @monique_muise ,  Stephane Giroux (CTV) @SGirouxCTV,  AD Humphreys (Mafia expert)  @AD_Humphrey

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CEIC Charbonneau Commission Day 3: ValentinaTenti Short Session

Day 2 of Valentina Tenti’s testimony was a short one. The commission recessed before noon, and Mike Amato, the detective from York Regional Police won’t take the stand until tomorrow.

Some highlights:

– Tenti could not cite an ethnic connection to Mafia corruption.

– She could not cite a correlation between gender and the mafia (though in some instances wives would front legitimate businesses for Mafia husbands)

– Tenti stated that in Sicily the Mafia is starting to branch out from public works and into the health care system and solid waste management.

– Tenti said that entrepreneurs that tried to co-exist along side the Mafia, apart from collusion would eventually have their businesses burned to the ground.

– Corruption is going to exist wherever there is a lack of checks and balances. It’s not the Mafia that’s the problem, it’s the system that is the problem.

– Tenti: “The conclusions of the Commission should not be based on opinions, but upon accurate information.”

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The Commission uploaded a new document today. Quebec Construction Industry Annual Statistics 2011 is now available on their website.

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Charbonneau Day 2 ( CEIC ): Valentina Tenti Testimony Afternoon

So on the break I read ahead in the Valentina Tenti report, Framing Mafia Infiltration in the Public Construction Industry in Italy (I’m impatient).

Take a look at the Case Studies in Part II; Master Builders, Master Criminals in Sicily (Page 59), The Free Port Project in Calabria (Page 67), and Campania (Page 74).

If this is the template for investigation that Charbonneau is setting the table with, then this is going to be big, and everyone will be implicated: organized crime, entrepreneurs, “white collars” (accountants, lawyers), public and private sector professionals, public officials and politicians.

Tenti’s most telling testimony came in the final hour. When commission lawyer Sonia Lebel asked her what Quebec should do to fight organized crime she responded,

 “It would be a mistake to focus on a specific group, because there is a system behind that group… The key will be the identification of who controls critical external resources. … Who is in control of the raw material? Who is in control of the workforce? Who is in control of the capital? How do these actors link together?”

Tenti resumes testimony tomorrow morning. The Gazette’s Monique Muise has been Tweeting the hearings, and providing excellent summaries of the proceedings. She’s got a good wrap up of today’s events here.

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