MONTREAL - After hearing about the Mafia in Italy, Ontario and the United States, a Quebec corruption inquiry finally turned its attention to its own backyard Tuesday.
Several law-enforcement officials are to testify in the coming days about the Italian Mafia in Montreal — in particular about the rise and fall of the Rizzuto clan and the unprecedented police investigation into the Mob that helped precipitate the decline.
A lawyer for the commission, Denis Gallant, said that on Wednesday the inquiry will see video surveillance from Operation Colisee where construction entrepreneurs were seen handing over money to the Mob.
Meanwhile, Tuesday, it was an RCMP officer who took the stand at the Charbonneau Commission, detailing the bloody rise of the Rizzutos in the late 1970s and early '80s.
Linda Fequiere says Vito Rizzuto was able to forge alliances and act as a peacemaker to solidify the clan's power base in Montreal.
Those alliances included Calabrian groups previously tied to the clan deposed by the Rizzutos. She said he also brokered arrangements with other groups like criminal biker gangs and the Irish Mob.
"Vito Rizzuto worked as a mediator. He was someone who could find solutions when there were problems among different groups," Fequiere said.
But the family fortunes changed.
Its troubles accelerated following Rizzuto's extradition to the United States, where he is serving a jail sentence for a 30-year-old killing, and after Operation Colisee, the largest anti-Mafia police sweep in Canadian history. Numerous family members would up dead or in prison.
Without naming any names, Fequiere said a faction of the Calabrian Mafia — which held power in Quebec for three decades before the rise of the Rizzutos — has taken over again.
Fequiere said she wouldn't go into details about who is in charge, noting that investigations could be compromised.
"I'm not saying the Sicilian faction has completely disappeared — but there is a return of the Calabrian faction that happened after the arrest and extradition of Vito Rizzuto," Fequiere said.
Rizzuto, currently jailed in the U.S., is scheduled to be released in a few weeks.
Fequiere says investigations have shown that Mafia in Montreal focuses on a few traditional staples: the drug trade, sports betting and illegal gambling, extortion, and money laundering as their principal illegitimate money-makers.
They are also involved in numerous legal industries such as restaurants, construction companies and private security, she said.
The Quebec inquiry is looking into criminal corruption in the construction industry and its ties to organized crime and political parties.
Later Tuesday, an RCMP officer shared details of the anti-Mafia sweep in November 2006. Vinicio Sebastiano told the inquiry that the RCMP focus was on drugs and not construction.
The investigation, which included years' worth of wiretap and video surveillance, captured all sorts of information that was then used in various cases.
Because of the focus on Quebec's bloody biker war during the 1990s, there was a void in Mafia-related intelligence that needed to be filled, Sebastiano said.
Police infiltrated two locations where members met, equipping it with surveillance equipment and listening in. The information led to waves of drug arrests.