Organized crime 'widespread'

Organized crime groups are engaged in a wide diversity of crime, from violent acts of murder, assault and robbery to sophisticated financial crimes, including stock market manipulation, money laundering and counterfeiting, the report says. "[Organized] crime figures continue to use Canadian financial markets to launder money and manipulate stock. Activity of this type has the potential to undermine markets, financial sectors and, ultimately, the entire economy."

National Post
October 28, 2003

Organized crime 'widespread'
Exclusive: RCMP report reveals criminal gains from streets to markets
Adrian Humphreys and Stewart Bell

Organized criminal gangs are corrupting, extorting and swindling their way into everyday life in Canada — jeopardizing stock markets, airport security and financial institutions — says a confidential RCMP report obtained by the National Post.

The in-depth police intelligence report presents organized crime as a growth industry often operating with impunity.

Despite massive police raids aimed at dismantling the Hells Angels and other outlaw motorcycle gangs, the report admits the bikers' presence is growing and imprisonment of gang members has had "no real impact on their criminal activities."

The Russian mafia is "more widespread than had previously been thought;" new criminal Eastern European groups are taking root here; Sicilian mafiosi have "begun to gain ground;" and Asian-based gangs are resorting to violence to expand their operations, the report concludes.

The frank assessment of organized crime in Canada was prepared by the RCMP's Criminal Intelligence Directorate to guide and prioritize large investigations launched by the Mounties.

The 40-page report calls itself "a compendium of the best, most current, strategic information available on the RCMP's organized crime targets," and outlines activities of gangsters across Canada.

Circulated internally at the end of April, 2003, a heavily edited version of the report was released under the Access to Information Act.

The top five tactical targets for the RCMP in each of four organized crime types — bikers, Italian Mafia, Eastern European crime groups and Asian gangs — are established in the document.

The analysis draws on "targeting information" from each of the RCMP's provincial divisions.

Organized crime groups are engaged in a wide diversity of crime, from violent acts of murder, assault and robbery to sophisticated financial crimes, including stock market manipulation, money laundering and counterfeiting, the report says. "[Organized] crime figures continue to use Canadian financial markets to launder money and manipulate stock. Activity of this type has the potential to undermine markets, financial sectors and, ultimately, the entire economy."

The groups are heavily involved in the sex trade, migrant smuggling, credit-card fraud, kidnapping, smuggling of illegal weapons, extortion, forging of passports and other official documents, diverting stolen goods into the marketplace, intimidation, loan sharking and other crimes.

The financial mainstay of each of the groups, however, is drugs.

From production and importing to bulk distribution and individual street sales, organized crime groups control the illegal drug trade in Canada from the beginning to end.

Perhaps the bleakest portion of the report is its assessment of the Hells Angels, the world's largest and most notorious motorcycle gang.

The assessment was made after numerous crackdowns on the gang, including Operation Springtime 2001, a massive police sweep of senior Hells Angels, two mega-trials of its members and associates in Quebec and the conviction of Maurice "Mom" Boucher, the gang's drug kingpin, for murder.

The actions were touted as severely damaging the organization but the current assessment is not so triumphant.

"The Hells Angels remain the most powerful OMG [outlaw motorcycle gang] in the country. It continues to extend the range and scope of its criminal activities through recruitment, the emergence of new affiliate OMGs and aggressive expansion of control over new territory," the report says.

The report says the gang has 35 chapters and approximately 600 members in Canada.

Putting the bikers in prison is not even having the desired effect, according to the report.

"Many OMG members and associates are ending up inside the correctional system as a result of major police investigations. This will have a profound impact, particularly with regard to issues such as control of the prison drug market and intimidation / manipulation of fellow inmates and prison staff," the report says.

"Since incarceration of OMG members and associates rarely has any real impact on their criminal activities, new methods of carrying out specific criminal acts will undoubtedly emerge."

The report says investigating Asian-based gangs is especially difficult.

"Asian-based organized crime groups are fluid, multi-faceted and extremely diverse," it says.

"Investigating [them] is problematic since they are so well networked and their activities are intertwined. British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and, increasingly, Quebec are major areas of activity for Asian-based criminal groups."

The Big Circle Boys, established criminals from China's Guangdong province, newer gangs from China's Fukien province, and Vietnamese gangs are working together to further their criminal aims, the report says.

The Vietnamese gangs are singled out as being particularly violent, even by underworld standards, and the Fukienese as having the potential to expand considerably.

Eastern European organized crime — often referred to as Russian gangs or the Red Mafiya, because many members come from the former Soviet Union — is evolving into a highly virulent crime phenomenon, the report says.

"While [Russian gangs] continue to be involved in activity like drug trafficking, extortion and the sex trade, it appears to be devoting itself to increasingly sophisticated criminal enterprises, particularly those that combine high potential profits with relatively low risk."

The most heavily censored portion of the report deals with the Italian-based Mafia, the sophisticated gangsters with the longest standing in Canada.

Almost all of this section was edited prior to release, including the key findings from the analysis.

It notes, however, the growing influence in Ontario of Mafia clans with roots in Sicily at the expense of the province's traditional Mafia groups who have their roots in Calabria, another southern Italian province.

It is an apparent reference to the expansion in recent years in the influence of the Rizzuto crime family from Montreal.

"[The Sicilian clans] have begun to gain ground in terms of both criminal activities and expansion into Ontario," the report says.

A prominent organized crime researcher said the massive scale, diversity and seeming impunity of the gangsters' activities in Canada reflect years of neglect by politicians and government officials.

"The government and society is afraid of them but they are not afraid of our government," Antonio Nicaso, a widely consulted organized crime specialist and the author of 10 books on the subject, said of the gangsters. "I don't think we will make any progress unless we pay attention to the punishment given under our judicial system. There are many dedicated police officers trying to investigate these sophisticated criminals but I don't see the same commitment from the political side."

He said criminal gangs budget for a short period of imprisonment in a relaxed Canadian jail when they are making plans for their drug networks. They expect access to criminal associates during incarceration and rapid transfer to a halfway house and full parole.

He said an end to plea bargaining, light sentencing and a parole board that considers drug trafficking a non-violent offence, would go a long way to reducing the incentive of global crime groups to focus on Canada.

Tomorrow: The latest arrivals in organized crime, and the "epidemic" of marijuana grow operations; moc.tsoplanoitan|syerhpmuha#moc.tsoplanoitan|syerhpmuha

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