Six residents of Thunder Bay, Ont., being sought in Italy as part of a crackdown on an international crime syndicate might never be extradited because the charge they face is not a crime in Canada, says a leading mafia expert.
Antonio Nicaso, a Toronto-based author who has extensively researched organized crime, said the six men named in Italian arrest warrants and a seventh in the Toronto area allegedly belong to the 'ndrangheta, one of the most powerful criminal organizations in the world.
Nicaso said Canada does not treat associations with criminal groups as seriously as the Italians, so extradition may be unlikely.
"Our criminal code doesn't criminalize the membership, doesn't recognize the mafia association charge," he said.
The Thunder Bay men have been identified in media outlets as:
- Rocco Minnella, 59
- Rocco Etreni, 65
- Giuseppe Bruzzese, 65
- Cosimo Cirillo, 54
- Cosimo Etreni, 74
- Antonio Minnella, 70
CBC News is attempting to confirm the name of a seventh man from Thunder Bay, who Nicaso said was arrested while visiting Italy earlier this week. The Toronto-area man was identified as Carmine Verduci.
A total of 41 men are in custody in Europe as part of an intensive and on-going investigation into organized crime in the southern Italian region of Calabria. Another 10 people, including the six from Thunder Bay, have not yet been detained.
Rocco Minnella says that he can't even pronounce 'ndrangheta and that the charge could be a case of mistaken identity.
"I have no association with it and I would never, never jeopardize my family, my friends, my business with this idiotic accusation," he said.
The men would be arrested if they travelled to Italy, but the RCMP — the police agency responsible for carrying out international arrest warrants — said they haven't received any official requests from either the Canadian or Italian governments.
A spokesperson for the Italian embassy says his government is asking for an extradition order and is optimistic the men will be dealt with in Italian courts.
Court documents allege Thunder Bay-related mob talk
According to court documents translated by Nicaso for CBC News, Italian authorities had a wire tap in a Calabrian laundromat called the Green Ape, which was preferred by the group because cell phone signals didn't work in the back room.
Police somehow managed to put a wire tap in place and the recordings by the Italian authorities formed much of the evidence in this case, the documents say.
Authorities allegedly heard details of a visit from two Thunder Bay men. According to the documents, they were caught on the wire tap asking how they could re-invigorate the Thunder Bay cell of the group.
Nicaso says the court documents show that these men were allegedly using passwords and terminology that would only be used by members of the 'ndrangheta.
"They were talking about procedure, about membership, and I think what the Italian authorities were able to gather (is) evidence that they were allegedly members of this criminal organization, but there is no other evidence that they were involved in criminal activity," he said.