Canadian anti-mafia prosecution falls apart after police misconduct
Charges from Ontario’s most substantial investigation into Italian organized crime have been suspended due to police misconduct.
The investigation, titled Project Sindacato, was an 18-month long operation that led to the arrests of alleged Figliomeni Crime Family members, including the reported leader of the ‘Ndrangheta-based group Angelo Figliomeni. The ‘Ndrangheta is known to be one of the most powerful mafia groups in the world.
There were 15 people arrested and police seized 27 homes worth $24 million, 23 high-end cars worth $3.5 million, about $1 million in cash, along with a remarkable array of luxury goods including boxes of Rolex watches and expensive alcoholic beverages. York police worked in cooperation with Canada Revenue Agency investigators to conduct these arrests.
According to a court application filed by Figliomeni, counsel quoted the police actions a “flagrant disregard” for wiretap rules and restrictions.
Windsor Star stated, “During court hearings in October, counsel for various of the accused discovered breaches of solicitor-client privilege, with one lawyer saying they ‘shockingly’ learned their communications with a co-accused of Figliomeni was not only in the hands of police but shared with other lawyers for other accused. Another lawyer called it ‘very problematic.'”
The court filing also explains how police officials failed to comply with a judge’s directions for “accessing legal communications on electronic devices seized during the probe… One of the main investigators utilized solicitor-party communications to create an investigative report that was ultimately relied on for the purposes of obtaining a special restraint order.”
In shorter terms, investigators were recording confidential conversations between Figliomeni and his lawyer and using them in the investigation.
This discovery led to the trial being suspended, and all seized legal goods being returned. This includes Figliomeni’s two Ferrari sports cars, a $6,000 bottle of Macallan single-malt Scotch, and $4,000 bottle of Louis XIII Cognac.
This may not come as a surprise, as Canadian officials have a history of violating solicitor-client privilege statues in previous organized crime cases.