RM Issue #030825
Organized crime flourishes in Canada, report finds - Crime gangs here becoming less visible, more business-oriented, says expert
Aug. 21, 2003
MONTREAL (CP) — Organized crime gangs are booming in Canada, using technology and stolen luxury cars to further their aims, says a federal report to be presented Friday. That's no surprise to Antonio Nicaso, a noted expert on the mob who says a soft judicial system and the criminals' ability to organize like a big corporation has helped them thrive. "We have good legislation in terms of investigating organized crime but the judicial system is a joke," Nicaso said today in an interview from Toronto. The annual report of the Criminal Intelligence Service Canada will be released Friday in Halifax but was obtained by Le Journal de Montreal. The report says Eastern European crime gangs are active in southern Ontario and Quebec and using high-tech expertise with things like computers to pursue their goals. They're especially active in the smuggling of such things as stolen luxury cars through Canada's ports, Le Journal said in a report Thursday. It also said outlaw biker gangs have been weakened by police crackdowns, but the Sicilian Mafia is strengthening its position at the top of the country's criminal hierarchy. The RCMP, which is co-ordinating the release of the report, would not comment on it Thursday or discuss the federal force's strategy in general pending the report's release, said Sgt. Paul Marsh. However, the http://www.rcmp-grc.gc.ca/ RCMP's Internet site describes "organized crime as a serious long-term threat" and raises possibility of its links to terrorists. The RCMP Web site said the force is fighting back through effective investigations, partnerships with other police services and intelligence gathering. Nicaso, a consultant who has written 10 books on organized crime, said police are on the right track and Canada has strengthened laws on money laundering, proceeds of crime and criminal gangs. But he said sentencing has to be tougher. "In the United States, there is a mandatory prison term — 30 years means 30 years," he said. "If we don't get tougher with criminals, Canada will continue to be a welcome wagon for organized crime. "Compared to the United States and Europe, there is a lower risk in Canada of prosecution and detention." The report mirrors concerns in other annual reports by the organization, which tracks criminal trends through data from police intelligence squads and other sources, such as media reports. Nicaso said organized crime has been changing its attitudes for some time, shifting its attention to global markets rather than mere control of particular cities. Canadian organized crime is "less visible, more business-oriented" and has struck partnerships with other criminal groups, said Nicaso. "We have some cases across Canada of different organized crime groups such as the Italian Mafia, the Hells Angels, the Colombian (drug) cartels, the West End gang in Montreal or Russian Mafia in other cities sitting down at the same table and working together as shareholders," he said. "They try to make bridges instead of fighting." The police heat generated on outlaw bikers because of their war in Quebec illustrated the value of a low profile, Nicaso observed. Disarray in mob families in the United States caused by prosecutions has also benefited Canadian criminals. "In Canada, the Mafia is stronger because now it doesn't answer any more to the United States," Nicaso said, pointing out that crime families in such places as Montreal and Toronto often took orders from bosses in New York. "Now they are independent, they don't share the profit." Eastern European crime gangs have added another dimension to the problem because they arrived already thinking like entrepreneurs, Nicaso said. Eastern European mob members were closely connected with the former Soviet regime, he said. "They had the connection with the power at that time," he said. ``When the Soviet Union fell, they were the only people with money, the only people that could invest in the new economy so they became businessmen. "When they moved to North America, they had the mentality to corrupt people to invest money."