Ontario Police Smash ’Ndrangheta Crime Clan That Laundered Millions Through Province’s Casinos
Posted on: July 20, 2019, 05:18h.
Last updated on: July 20, 2019, 05:18h.
Police in Ontario have arrested nine suspected high-ranking members of the powerful ’Ndrangheta crime family, which they believe laundered more than C$70 million ($53.5 million) through the province’s casinos in the past few years. The group also operated its own backroom casinos, extorting money from gamblers through high-interest loan sharking.
Among those detained is Angelo Figliomeni, aka “Il Brigante” or “The Bandit,” the alleged boss of the syndicate. He arrived in Canada in 2010 from Italy, escaping a 20-year prison sentence.
CTV reports that because he is a Canadian citizen, and the crime of Mafia association does not exist in Canada, he was living openly in the Toronto suburb of Vaughan, while at the same time developing a massive crime and money-laundering operation.
The “Figliomeni Clan” had grown so big that it was reportedly one of the few ‘Ndrangheta operations based abroad issuing orders to clans in Italy. Police were alerted to its operations in 2017 when they believed a pattern of shootings and arson in the Vaughan area pointed to an ongoing Mafia war.
Living the High Life
In raids across three days this week, police seized more than C$35 million ($27 million) in assets, including 27 properties and 23 luxury cars. One Ferrari was valued at C$880,000 ($670,000). At the same time, 15 people were arrested in Italy as the result of a parallel investigation.
“A large portion of their income stems from the use of video gaming machines and the loans made to patrons to keep them gambling regardless of the amount of debt they occurred,” read a police statement. “The astronomical interest rate, or ‘juice’ as it’s known, keeps the organization in a continual flow of illegal funds.
People caught in this cycle were gambling away their life savings as people in this organization used intimidation and violence, including shootings and arsons, to collect outstanding debts,” it added.
During the 18-month investigation, police wiretapped 11 cafes across the Greater Toronto Area and followed alleged mobsters to casinos across the province to observe them cleaning money at the gaming tables, gambling $30,000 to $50,000 per night.
Canada has been gripped by a money-laundering scandal since it was revealed that billions of dollars had been washed through British Columbia’s casinos and real-estate market, largely by criminals of Chinese origin. But some believe the problem could be far more widespread.
A recent report by the BC government’s Expert Panel on Money Laundering in B.C. Real Estate suggested BC could be just the tip of the iceberg and named Ontario as a possible dirty money hotspot.
What is the ’Ndrangheta?
The ’Ndrangheta is a criminal organization based in Calabria, the “toe” of Italy’s “foot.” While for many years considered the poor cousin of the Cosa Nostra and the Camorra, Italian prosecutors believe the Ndrangheta now the most powerful criminal organization in Italy and quite possibly the world, with a presence in more than 100 countries and an estimated revenues of at $50 billion to $100 billion per year.
It is believed to run 70 percent of the cocaine in Europe and to control much of the illegal arms trade around the world, selling weapons to both sides in the Syrian civil war.
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