Quebec police are remaining tight-lipped on the reported prison stabbing of one of Canada's most notorious criminals — Maurice (Mom) Boucher, alleged former leader of the Quebec Hells Angels chapter, who is serving a life sentence for murder.
Organized crime watchers say the attack reflects changing power dynamics in Quebec's criminal underworld.
'We have to see 'Mom' Boucher as the pale reflection of the gang leader he once was. I don't think he has clout and can exercise the level of fear that he once had when he was roaming the streets and really ruled the gang world of Quebec.'—Julian Sher, biker gang expert
Officers with Quebec police have confirmed that four inmates were involved in a dispute at the Sainte-Anne-des-Plaines Penitentiary Saturday afternoon, but wouldn't verify several media reports that Boucher was stabbed and injured during the incident.
Ruefrontenac.com reported on the weekend that Boucher was attacked with a homemade knife during a prison yard scuffle that broke out Saturday afternoon at the prison located 50 kilometres northeast of Montreal.
Sources told Ruefrontenac.com that Boucher and one of his bodyguards were attacked by two inmates transferred last week to the super maximum facility.
Prison guards intervened quickly and used pepper spray to break up the altercation, according to sources quoted by Ruefrontenac.com (an online publication produced by locked-out Journal de Montréal reporters.)
Boucher is said to have been stabbed in the stomach and foot, and was treated by a prison doctor.
Boucher's influence waning, says crime expert
Sûreté du Quebec Sgt. Gregory Gomez del Prado told CBC News that two prisoners were injured in the incident, but wouldn't confirm that one of them was Boucher.
"We're investigating, of course, to try to determine what happened," Gomez del Prado said. A Crown prosecutor will review reports of the event to determine whether any charges will be laid.
Regardless of the details, an expert on organized crime in Quebec says the reported attack on Boucher reflects his declining influence.
Boucher may not hold the power he once did, and may not attract the protection he once enjoyed, said Julian Sher, a Montreal-based investigative journalist and biker gang expert.
"We have to see 'Mom' Boucher as the pale reflection of the gang leader he once was," said Sher, who authored several books on the Hells Angels.
"I don't think he has clout and can exercise the level of fear that he once had when he was roaming the streets and really ruled the gang world of Quebec."
Under Boucher, the Hells Angels led a bloody turf war over drugs in Montreal during the 1990s.
Sher said the latest prison incident may not have been a planned assassination, even though Boucher remains a notable figure inside prison walls and a tempting target for would-be-attackers.
"If you could harm the once-great 'Mom' Boucher, that's a notch in your belt," Sher explained.
Boucher is being housed in a special unit of the prison and has little contact with other inmates. "It's very secure, but it's also very isolated, which means he is cut off from the rest of his gang members [who] are in prison," Sher said.
Meanwhile, on the street, the Hells Angels in Quebec have been hampered in recent years by sweeping arrests, notably the 2009 Operation SharQC, when more than 100 full-patch members were arrested based on informant evidence.
Montreal's organized crime scene is going through a major period of flux, and "there's a shakeup going on," Sher said.
"One thing is clear, it won't be 'Mom' Boucher that comes out on top."
Boucher attacked several times
It's not the first time Boucher has been threatened since he went to prison after being found guilty of first-degree murder in the 1997 deaths of two prison guards.
He has been attacked several times while behind bars, including an assassination attempt shortly after he was incarcerated. A fellow inmate tried to kill Boucher with a homemade knife.
Boucher was spared after other inmates rushed to his defence and killed the attacker with his own crude weapon.
Boucher is serving three concurrent life sentences for the two murder convictions, and for a conviction of attempted murder, with no chance for parole until 2022.