Quebec police raids: 31 alleged Mafia members arrested

Thirty-one people were arrested this morning after a series of police raids targeting alleged Mafia members in Montreal, Laval, Gatineau and Quebec City.

Project Clemenza intercepted close to 1 million PIN-to-PIN BlackBerry messages

Police said the cells targeted by Operation Clemenza were "active and dangerous." (Radio-Canada)

Thirty-one people were arrested this morning after a series of police raids targeting alleged Mafia members in Montreal, Laval, Gatineau and Quebec City.

Police are currently looking for three other individuals.

Some 200 officers from a number of police forces took part in the raids, as part of Operation Clemenza led by the RCMP.

Raids follow interception of BlackBerry messages

The raids followed an extensive investigation that involved the interception of PIN-to-PIN BlackBerry messages between members of the Guiseppe De Vito and Bastone brothers Mafia cells. 

Insp. Michel Arcand of the RCMP's organized crime division said an investigation between 2010 and 2012 intercepted around one million PIN-to-PIN messages, and involved what he described as a "complex analysis process."

"This is the most important interception of its kind in the context of a major investigation in North America," he said. 

Both Mafia cells, described by the RCMP as "violent and active," emerged after a 2006 police operation code-named Colisée left the Montreal Mafia's leadership in disarray. 

Colisée resulted in the arrests of nearly 100 suspected mobsters, including many top leaders of the Montreal Mafia. 

Hussein Abdallah (Montreal), Patrizio Silvano (Laval) and Giovanni Gerbasi (Gatineau) are wanted by police in connection with Operation Clemenza. (RCMP)

Arcand said Clemenza's goal was to "eliminate" the organizations that took over in the wake of Colisée.

"The dismantling of these cells disrupts the whole organization of the Italian Mafia in Montreal," he said.

A table displaying machine-guns seized during a previous raid with links to Clemenza served to emphasize the potential for violence.

"We were dealing with two very organized and dangerous groups that were willing to do anything to achieve their goals and had the means to do it," Arcand said. 

Those arrested Thursday face 87 charges including arson, kidnapping, forcible confinement, assault, gangsterism, possession of firearms, possession of explosives and conspiracy to smuggle drugs, money and cellphones into prison.

De Vito poisoned in prison

Giuseppe (Ponytail) De Vito was one of the leaders targeted by Operation Colisée, but he managed to avoid arrest until 2010.

An associate of the Rizzuto clan, De Vito was found dead in his jail cell last year. 

A coroner's report found traces of cyanide in his blood.