A hit man turned informant helped police arrest 10 people suspected in the deaths and attempted killings of dozens of people during Quebec's biker wars.
Quebec provincial police made the arrests Thursday in Trois-Rivières, Warwick, St-Jérome and Quebec City. Officers also raided a federal prison in Donnaconna, near Quebec City.
Investigators are still looking for an 11th person, a woman, as part of the investigation dubbed Operation Baladeur.
Police allege the suspects all had links to the Hells Angels, the Rock Machine or the West End Gang.
Police believe the suspects either ordered or carried out the killings of 28 people between 1978 and 2003. Some of the suspects are also allegedly linked to 13 attempted killings during the same period of time.
One of the people arrested on Thursday is facing murder charges in connection with 16 deaths.
Critical to making the arrests, said police, was information provided by a former contract killer named Gérald Gallant who is currently serving a life sentence in a Quebec jail.
"Gérald Gallant is a major player in this investigation," said Quebec provincial police Lt. François Doré in Quebec City on Thursday.
Hit man led police to open cold cases
Gallant is a self-confessed hit man who once worked for a member of the West End Gang.
Former crime journalist Michel Auger, who wrote about organized crime for Le Journal de Montreal, said the story behind Gallant and Operation Baladeur is worthy of a movie.
Gallant was arrested in Switzerland three years ago.
"He was wanted by police there for small fraud, credit card fraud. He revealed to the astonishment of the police officers there that he was a contract killer in Quebec," said Auger.
"The police were advised here, and the investigation started that way."
In February 2008, a Quebec court convicted Gallant of first-degree murder in the death of Yvon Daigneault, the owner of a bar in Sainte-Adèle in Quebec's Laurentian Mountains in 2001.
Gallant was also convicted of attempted murder in the shooting of Michel Paquette, a client in the tavern.
Gallant is currently serving a life sentence without a chance of parole for 25 years.
Investigation includes attempted killing of Hells associate
Some high-profile names are among those arrested, including Raymond Desfossés, an alleged high-ranking member of the West End Gang, and Frédéric Faucher, who police say is a former leader of the Rock Machine.
Auger remembers many of the cases connected to Operation Baladeur, among them the attempted killing of a close associate of former Hells Angels boss Maurice Boucher.
"[The associate] saved his life by taking a waitress as a shield. The woman, Hélène Brunet, was shot in the arm and the leg," said Auger.
The suspects arrested in Operation Baladeur were to be arraigned via videoconference on Thursday.
Doré said the operation should send a message to people involved in organized crime today.
"Time will not go against the police forces," he said. "This is a strong message to any criminal organization."