Italian probe reveals how "criminal blockchain" gives Toronto-area mobsters international authority

Adrian Hum­ph­reys When his bro­ther was kil­led last year in an ambush, Vin­cen­zo Muià beca­me the boss of his Mafia clan in sou­thern Ita­ly. One of his fir­st acts of lea­der­ship was to gather his loyal sol­diers to plan their defen­ce. His next was aven­ging his bro­ther. For that, he came to Cana­da. “If I don’t know who kil­led him, how can I sleep pea­ce­ful­ly? How can I sleep?” he lamen­ted, accor­ding to a trans­la­tion of a poli­ce wire­tap that cap­tu­red his con­ver­sa­tions.

Unwit­tin­gly, Muià’s arri­val in Toron­to this spring to con­sult Mafia lea­ders living in Onta­rio came at a ter­ri­ble time for the grie­ving boss. At that moment, York Regio­nal Poli­ce had an ambi­tious anti-mob pro­be under­way tar­ge­ting the very peo­ple he had come to con­sult. His pre­sen­ce in Cana­da, poli­ce in Ita­ly say, hel­ped inve­sti­ga­tors not only under­stand more about the mur­der of Muià’s bro­ther but also a raft of other cri­mes, pro­du­cing 12 arrests in Ita­ly inclu­ding one of a Cana­dian man born in Toron­to. It was the inter­na­tio­nal coun­ter­part to the lar­ge Toron­to-area Mafia busts announ­ced with fan­fa­re last week, and its sur­pri­sing fin­dings highlight how impor­tant mob­sters in Cana­da have beco­me in the glo­bal under­world.

Ita­lian poli­ce had their inte­re­st spar­ked on Jan. 18, 2018, when Car­me­lo Muià, kno­wn as “Mino,” was shot dead in Sider­no, a Mafia stron­ghold in Italy’s sou­thern region of Cala­bria, the toe on the boot-sha­ped map of Ita­ly. It was a signi­fi­cant event. Mino was the boss of his mob fami­ly, one cell of many in the Ndran­ghe­ta, the pro­per name of the power­ful Mafia of Cala­bria. And the Muià fami­ly, in turn, is part of a con­fe­de­ra­tion of Ndran­ghe­ta fami­lies in and around Sider­no that is often cal­led the Sider­no Group, con­si­de­red one of the world’s fore­mo­st cri­mi­nal enter­pri­ses.

Muià was apo­plec­tic over his brother’s mur­der. He star­ted decon­struc­ting and ana­ly­zing the ambush, loo­king for clues, accor­ding to the Ita­lian inve­sti­ga­tion. Who had kno­wn whe­re his bro­ther was going? Who would have had moti­ve to kill him? Who was capa­ble of being so bold?

He set­tled on a chief suspect, someo­ne with a sharp grie­van­ce — someo­ne who­se two bro­thers were kil­led during a pre­vious mob feud invol­ving Muià’s fami­ly. The wire­taps cap­tu­red Muià’s com­plain­ts that the vic­tors left a sur­vi­ving bro­ther who could some­day seek ven­gean­ce. “When you cut weeds out of the grass, if you don’t get them all, they will grow back,” he said in Ita­lian, accor­ding to autho­ri­ties in Ita­ly. “When you do things, you have to do them right.”

Muià pul­led fami­ly loya­lists toge­ther and orde­red them to rearm and get rea­dy, autho­ri­ties alle­ge. He did not want to act rashly, howe­ver. He wan­ted proof. And so this past April, Muià, along with Giu­sep­pe Gre­go­ra­ci, one of his alle­ged under­lings, left for Cana­da to spend a week or two try­ing to con­firm his suspi­cions. “It was an inop­por­tu­ne time for them to come,” said Det. Sgt. Carl Mat­ti­nen of York police’s new anti-Mafia task­for­ce, which ran the pro­be cal­led Pro­ject Sin­da­ca­to. “We hap­pe­ned to be live (with wire­taps) when they tra­ve­led here.”

Muià alle­ged­ly met with two bro­thers, Ange­lo Figlio­me­ni, 56, and Cosi­mo Figlio­me­ni, 54, col­lec­ti­ve­ly cal­led “u Bri­gan­ti” (the Bri­gands), accor­ding to Ita­lian autho­ri­ties. Poli­ce announ­ced Angelo’s arre­st in Vau­ghan, Ont. last week, the cen­tre­pie­ce of the York pro­be. Mat­ti­nen named him as the head of the Figlio­me­ni cri­me fami­ly. Cosi­mo was not arre­sted. Ita­lian court docu­men­ts refer to both Figlio­me­ni bro­thers as “fugi­ti­ves” in Cana­da, having left Ita­ly ahead of Mafia-asso­cia­tion char­ges. The mee­tings in Cana­da, autho­ri­ties alle­ge, revea­led Muià see­king answers and advi­ce on the con­se­quen­ces of pur­suing his brother’s mur­de­rer. The mee­tings revea­led some­thing else, howe­ver — some­thing that shoc­ked even vete­ran Mafia inve­sti­ga­tors in Ita­ly. The­re has been a shift in the Sider­no Group’s power struc­tu­re, til­ting towards Cana­da, autho­ri­ties said.

For deca­des, the Ndran­ghe­ta fami­lies of Sider­no ope­ra­ting in Cana­da — about seven of them — have been gover­ned by a board of direc­tors, cal­led the “came­ra di con­trol­lo,” or cham­ber of con­trol. The local board, as in other coun­tries around the world and other regions of Ita­ly whe­re clans have spread, have all been sub­ser­vient to the mother clans of Cala­bria, under a body kno­wn as “il Cri­mi­ne di Sider­no.” Poli­ce in both coun­tries now say the Ndrangheta’s Cana­dian pre­sen­ce has beco­me so power­ful and influen­tial that the board north of Toron­to has the autho­ri­ty to make deci­sions, not only in rela­tion to Canada’s under­world, but also abroad, even back in Sider­no.

The Cana­dian board can have influen­ce over the “enti­re ’Ndran­ghe­ta,” Ita­lian autho­ri­ties said. “The gover­ning body of the Sider­no branch no lon­ger ope­ra­tes only in Cala­bria, tran­smit­ting orders abroad, but also does so direc­tly on Cana­dian soil, to give it a more effec­ti­ve and effi­cient com­mand struc­tu­re,” Ita­lian autho­ri­ties said in court docu­men­ts, trans­la­ted into English. This sho­ws that Canada’s mob­sters are “more stra­te­gi­cal­ly power­ful than we had thought befo­re,” said Anna Ser­gi, a senior cri­mi­no­lo­gy lec­tu­rer at the Uni­ver­si­ty of Essex who spe­cia­li­zes in the Ndran­ghe­ta. “From the wire­taps it appears that — dif­fe­ren­tly from the situa­tion por­trayed in (pre­vious inve­sti­ga­tions) — the cham­ber of con­trol in Toron­to can extend its stra­te­gic reso­nan­ce to Sider­no as well, for the fir­st time rever­sing the order,” said Ser­gi.

It appears to be both a reflec­tion of the rea­li­ties of immi­gra­tion and a stra­te­gic sur­vi­val plan. A lar­ge num­ber of respec­ted and influen­tial Cala­brian mob­sters have immi­gra­ted to the Toron­to area, inclu­ding some fleeing Italy’s anti-Mafia pro­bes. Howe­ver, if poli­ce make a deci­si­ve sweep again­st bos­ses in Ita­ly, the­re is alrea­dy a paral­lel struc­tu­re ope­ra­ting with influen­ce and inter­na­tio­nal reco­gni­tion that can keep the busi­ness run­ning.

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