Organized crime in Canada is a problem, says expert Nicaso

Nicaso, one of the world’s leading experts on organized crime, says ‘the fight against organized crime has never been a priority in Canada.’

By Angelo PERSICHILLI

(The Hill Times)  25 Sept. 2017

Last week, CityTV stations aired the first of a six part series of Bad Blood (8 p.m. every Thursday), a true story based on Business or Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizzuto’s Last War, written by Anatonio Nicaso and Peter Edwards, two of the best experts about Mafia and

Coates Kim
Antonio Nicaso, center, with actor Kim Coates and producer Mark Montefiore. 

organized crime in the world. The book is a true story about the deceased Montreal mobster Vito Rizzuto (in the series played by Anthony LaPaglia), and his activity, business affairs, and connections with other crime organizations, politics, and business. The series hit Canadian TV screens at a time when organized crime is becoming increasingly active.

Antonio Nicaso, a university professor, researcher, and consultant to governments and law-enforcement agencies in Canada and around the world, tells The Hill Times that “the fight against organized crime has never been a priority in Canada.” He points out that Canada is the last country to put a ceiling on the money entering Canada “and we are probably the only G7 country exonerating lawyers from the duty to report suspicious financial transactions.”

PosterAs I wrote in The Toronto Star last October, Canada received a stiff warning from the Financial Action Task Force (FATF), a United Nations organization monitoring illegal financial operations around the world, about “an important domestic and foreign money-laundering threat” from criminal organizations that launder billions of dollars in this country. The FATF also sounded an alarm about the threat against “major financial institutions and some unscrupulous real estate lawyers targeted by criminals involved in laundering money.”

According to Nicaso, despite FINTRAC’s and the RCMP’s efforts and despite numerous warnings from GAFI, Canada is accomplishing very little in confiscating the profits from illegal activities. He says Canada reacts only to some serious “acts of violence” while financial crimes are mainly ignored. Nicaso also disputes the federal allocation of funds between the fight against terrorism and the fight against organized crime: “It looks like that in order to fight against the former, you have to reduce the fight against the latter. This is wrong, we can do both at the same time. Our law enforcement agencies are capable of doing both at the same time, as long as the governments provide the necessary funding.”

This permissive approach to illegal money entering Canada seems similar to the one adopted by the Roman emperor Vespasian who was used to say “pecunia non olet,” (money doesn’t stink) when criticized for imposing a tax on public urinals. According to Nicaso, many in Ottawa consider money arriving from abroad to be an investment: “Basically, their approach is to let them bring money into Canada, as long as they don’t commit crime in this country.” There is no problem if the money is made illegally abroad, as long as it is spent legally in Canada. Nicaso says this approach is not just morally disputable, but also economically wrong. “When criminals start a legal activity in Canada,” he says. “They create an unfair competition damaging honest and hard-working businesspeople in Canada. In fact, while they have to struggle to finance their businesses and pay for the money they need, criminals start their activity getting money at zero cost. And this has a huge repercussion on our economy.”

“Thanks to this disputable approach, criminal organizations in Canada are now living a long and profitable honeymoon in our country,” he says. For example, proceeds of crimes in Canada are at between three and five per cent of our GDP, or, according to CSIS estimates in 2007, about $62-billion. Nicaso says Canada should keep fighting terrorism, but Canadians should also be made aware that the threat from criminal organizations is as much, if not more dangerous, than the one posed by terrorism: “This is why I insist that the contrasting method must be brought up to another level, otherwise we will always be a step behind in the fight against organized crime.”

Angelo Persichilli is a former Stephen Harper-era PMO director of Communications, former columnist for Toronto Sun and Toronto Star and former political editor at Corriere Canadese.

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