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Tax refund mystery is latest of Montreal crime family’s many links to officialdom

Convicted Montreal crime boss Nick Rizzuto leaves a Montreal prison, Thursday, Oct. 16, 2008. The federal government has confirmed that former Mafia don Rizzuto was given an undeserved cheque for $381,737.


A report that the Canada Revenue Agency cut a $381,737 cheque to Mafia don Nicolo Rizzuto has raised concerns that the federal department was infiltrated by the mob.

National Revenue Minister Kerry-Lynne Findlay acknowledged Thursday that the 2007 cheque was improperly sent (Mr. Rizzuto was under investigation for tax evasion at the time) but she didn't elaborate on the fears of retired officials, who were interviewed for the story by by Radio-Canada and The Globe and Mail, about the mob's reach into the tax department.

Mr. Rizzuto, who was assassinated in 2010, was the patriarch of a Montreal crime family that has long cultivated connections with various levels of officialdom.

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The case of the $381,737 cheque came in the wake of allegations that several auditors in the CRA's Montreal office were corrupted by entrepreneur Frank Bruno to help him evade taxes.

Mr. Bruno, who owns a construction company, B.T. Céramique, has been linked to the Rizzutos. According to testimony at the Charbonneau inquiry, one of Mr. Rizzuto's lieutenants, Francesco Del Balso, was caught on a police wiretap threatening a business rival of Mr. Bruno.


The Rizzutos were accused by the RCMP of corrupting federal customs agents and employees at Montreal's airport as part of a plan to smuggle cocaine.

RCMP affidavits filed at the Montreal courthouse say that a corrupt bureaucrat gave the Rizzutos a supply of pre-stamped customs declaration cards that enabled their cocaine-carrying couriers to avoid luggage inspection.


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According to other court documents, the Rizzuto family didn't just exploit traditional rackets such as drug trafficking, extortion and loan-sharking but also pushed into mainstream ventures, for example rigging public contracts and mining stock.

The Charbonneau inquiry, which is looking into corruption in the construction industry, showed that Mr. Rizzuto and his son Vito, identified in court documents as the godfather of the Montreal Mafia, are at the heart of a web of mob suspects, construction bosses and Montreal city officials who are alleged to have taken cuts from overinflated public-works contracts.

The inquiry heard last fall that Vito Rizzuto went on a golfing getaway to the Dominican Republic with two municipal engineers, Luc Leclerc and Gilles Surprenant, a longtime city planner.

Mr. Leclerc and Mr. Surprenant said they joined the trip at the invitation of contractor Tony Conte, who also set up a golf foursome with the two engineers and Vito Rizzuto in 2002 at Le Mirage club in Terrebonne, Que., near Montreal.

The contractor Lino Zambito testified that the Rizzuto crime family received a 2.5 per cent cut from Montreal municipal excavation contracts.

In 2002, Vito Rizzuto was stopped by Montreal police while driving a vehicle owned by OMG Media Inc. of Concord, Ont. The company had contracts to place garbage cans on the streets of a number of Canadian cities, including Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa.

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Both Vito Rizzuto and OMG denied that they were connected. In fact, the Rizzuto family owned 8,750 OMG shares, which were sold for $1.6-million after the link was reported.

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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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