Hundreds of police rounded up dozens ofpeople, including a manreputed to bethe former Mafia godfather of Canada, in a series of raids Wednesday targeting organized crime across the Montreal area.
Police arrested 69 people— including Nicolo Rizzuto, 82— after executing more than 80 arrest warrants in the culmination of the so-called Project Colisee. The operation began two years ago.
Richard Guay, superintendent of criminal operations for the RCMP, told reporters the bust "went beyond all our hopes" and succeeded in disrupting a criminal organization operating internationally.
"We have penetrated the very heart of this organization," he said, adding "no criminal organization should sleep soundly tonight."
More than 700RCMP, municipal and provincial police officersfanned out across Laval and Montreal North in the early morning,armed with search warrants for dozens of homes, businesses and bank accounts.
Policeexpect to lay more than 1,300 charges, including attempted murder, drug dealing, gangsterism, extortion, bookmaking and possession of restrictedweapons.
Police allege that members of the organization had infiltrated Montreal's Pierre Trudeau airport toimport 1,300 kilograms of cocaine. RCMP Cpl. Luc Bessette saidthat among those alleged to have been involvedare 10airport employees,includinga Canadian customs service agent.
The corporal said some of those employees were involved in food services and cargo handling.
An RCMP news release said 300 kilograms, representing the first shipment, were seized.
Police allege the organization "corrupted" a second customs officer and "conspired with that person to import an indeterminate quantity of drugs by container," according to the release.
Oneof the customs agents has been arrested and police are searching for the other, he said.
Bessette alsoalleged that the organization was linked to another criminal organization that was exporting marijuana to the U.S. through the Akwesasne native reserve. But policeadded that no one on the reserve was involved.
Houses and bank accounts of the suspects were seizedalong withmore than $3 million Cdnand $255,200 US.
Police claim major score against mob
Montreal police saidRizzuto and Francesco Arcadi were among the suspected organized crime figures arrested.
Rizzuto is the father of Vito Rizzuto, the reputed Mafia boss deported to the United States to face racketeering charges in connection with the 1981 murders of three high-ranked New York mobsters from the Bonnano crime family.
Arcadi is an alleged associate of the younger Rizzuto, and is believed to havetaken his placesincethe extradition.
The suspects are being held in four police stations and will appear in court throughout the day, either in person or by video link,to be arraigned, police said.
The arrests cap a two-year policeprobe intoMontreal's organized crime scene considereda major hiton the city's underworld.
But oneexpert on the Mafiaexpressed reservations about the long-term impact of the police raids.
"This will be a significant blow to the Rizzuto family, but not necessarily to Mafia in Quebec in Canada," said Antonio Nicaso, author of several books on the Mafia.