CBC Digital Archives

Global hunt for narcotics smugglers

Rum runners. Heroin connections. Ecstasy labs. All part of a long line of criminal dealings in the service of international drug trafficking that smear Canada's squeaky-clean image. As the international community began to regulate intoxicating drugs in the 20th century, drug traffickers forged global routes through Canada in a vicious and wildly lucrative case of supply and demand. CBC Digital Archives looks back at Canada's unique place in this perilous trade as a customer, conduit and producer of illegal drugs.

By the 1950s, the men who became bootleggers during Prohibition have legitimate business interests, and nobody asks too many questions. That's why it's so hard to know who is behind international dug trafficking. In Canada, the RCMP says there's one big brain. Interpol thinks Europe's got a group of gangs working together. In the U.S., experts believe the Mafia, headed by Lucky Luciano, runs the show. But as we hear in this 1958 clip from CBC Radio's Assignment, the big fish are almost impossible to catch: they never touch the drugs but simply invest in the dope trade and reap enormous profits.
• In the 1930s, after Prohibition ended in the United States, organized crime increasingly shifted their operations from trafficking in alcohol to narcotics and other drugs. In Canada, narcotics trafficking on a large scale picked up steam in the mid-1950s, when Montreal Godfather Vic Cotroni teamed up with the New York Bonnano crime family. It is widely believed that Cotroni, working with the Corsican and Sicilian mafias in Europe and the Bonnanos in the U.S., built the highly profitable smuggling network that came to be known as the French Connection. As it turns out, this fits neatly with the report given by CBC Radio's Gordon Donaldson in this 1958 clip.
Medium: Radio
Program: Assignment
Broadcast Date: July 11, 1958
Host: Maria Barrett, Bill McNeil
Reporter: Gordon Donaldson
Duration: 4:28

Last updated: February 1, 2012

Page consulted on December 6, 2013

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