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Montreal Mafia ‘godfather’ called before corruption inquiry

Vito Rizzuto, right, reputed head of the Montreal Mafia, speaks with his attorney Jean Salois after his hearing in Montreal on Feb. 6, 2004. The sheer scope of the power once held by Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto has been hinted at in testimony at Quebec's corruption inquiry. According to testimony Monday, he once helped decide who built the roads in Quebec.

RYAN REMIORZ/THE CANADIAN PRESS

The man police have described as the 'godfather' of the Montreal Mafia has been called to appear before Quebec's Charbonneau commission, according to a report.

Vito Rizzuto received a summons to testify at the probe into corruption in Quebec's construction industry, Radio-Canada reported Friday night.

Three decades ago, a previous inquiry had similarly subpoenaed Montreal Mafia bosses Vic Cotroni and Paolo Violi. Neither said much on the stand and they were each sentenced to one year in prison for failing to co-operate.

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Mr. Rizzuto has been referenced repeatedly during testimony at the inquiry chaired by Madam Justice France Charbonneau, with former construction boss Lino Zambito testifying that members of his Montreal Mafia received a 2.5-per-cent cut on city contracts.

RCMP surveillance video played at the inquiry showed some construction entrepreneurs bringing cash either to Mr. Rizzuto's father, Nicolo Rizzuto, or to Mr. Rizzuto's brother-in law, Paolo Renda.

And city engineer Luc Leclerc, who admits to collecting at least $500,000 in bribes from construction bosses, testified that he took part in a 1995 golf vacation in the Dominican Republic with Mr. Rizzuto, whom he called "a great guy, an excellent travel companion, a good golfer."

Mr. Rizzuto has kept a low profile since he returned to Canada last month after serving a sentence in the United States for his role in a Mafia triple murder in Brooklyn. While Mr. Rizzuto was in prison, his father and one of his sons were killed and many of his top associates were murdered or disappeared.

The inquiry has also subpoenaed Raynald Desjardins, whom court and parole-board documents allege is a mobster who was once a close associate of Mr. Rizzuto. Mr. Desjardins – who has been charged for murder following the slaying of Salvatore Montagna, a mobster who tried to take over the Montreal Mafia – is trying to quash the inquiry summons, arguing that it would jeopardize his right to a fair trial.

With a report from Kim Mackrael

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About the Author
National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More

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