The Modern Mafia?

In a tropical paradise miles away from the stress of everyday life, a gruesome murder of one Woodbridge couple would shine new light on the Mafia. When rumours of Mob-related involvement in the death of Domenico and Annunziata Ianiero quickly surfaced, it led to the question: Does the Mafia really exist or is it just the notoriety of organized crime that still lives on?

Capone, Hoffa, Gambino and Gotti – these are the names of the most notorious players in La Cosa Nostra a.k.a the Italian Mafia. To many Canadians, these Mobsters are merely icons of the criminal underworld, far from their own reality. Media speculation, however, may suggest otherwise.

“Of course they exist and unfortunately we have so many criminal organizations that sometimes work together,” said Antonio Nicaso, author of Angels, Mobsters, and Narco-Terrorists: The Rising Menace of Global Criminal Empires and a leading expert on organized crime. “We have at least 18 major criminal organizations and they create some kind of strategic alliances.”

The investigation to uncover whether these tales of modern-day Mobsters really do exist, lead to some unexpected discoveries. Few people agreed to speak openly about the subject altogether. It became an endless road of shocked facial expressions and “no comment.”

At a local grocery store, one eavesdropper approached to warn, “Be quiet: You never know who’s listening.” For all those who refused to speak out, there remained some citizens who had an opinion to be shared.

“Yeah, they exist but I’m not scared, I respect them. I respect them in the sense that that’s what they do and I try to stay out of their path. When it comes to the mobs, though, you have to watch the Chinese triads and the Russians first, before the Italians,” said Peter Castellano, a resident of Vaughan.

One resident shared the same concern as many others. “People are afraid to talk because they think if they do, something will happen to the family. Kind of like a payback,” Sandra Montanaro said.

The general sense was a feared reputation that developed years before back in the home countries. In the 1930s and ’40s the Mob was around to protect neighbourhoods from the real criminals. Now decades later, these Mobsters have not only infiltrated Canada but now run some of the most sophisticated, white-collar crimes. Canada not only became the land of opportunity for new immigrants, but opportunity for crime as well.

“Canada is no longer simply a transit country for criminals helmingtheir operation into the United States; it is now an organized crime triple threat. It is still a transit point but it’s also a haven and a source country for illicit drugs,” Nicaso said.

When it comes to criminal activity, Canada seems to have a special place in the underworld. The government’s inability to crack down on those who commit offences in connection with organized crime is a product of several problems.

Nicaso said the politics surrounding legislation, immigration, justice, and lack of commitment make governments far too weak to combat organized crime in Canada.

In his book, Nicaso argues it’s the economic principles of supply and demand that enable criminals to make money.

“It’s difficult to defeat organized crime because we create [it] with legislation, prohibition, and taxation and … as soon as you create products there will always be a black market to provide that product,” Nicaso said.

Canada’s justice system seems to lack national initiative to reprimand these criminals. In exchange for a guilty plea, the courts save valuable time and money of a lengthy trial, but the criminals get minimal jail terms.

In his book, Nicaso argues that Canada behaves like an accountant in the matters of organized crime control. “Regardless of the severity of the crime we have the tendency to make a deal with the criminals and bargaining down the sentence in order to avoid the cost of a long trial,” Nicaso said.

Nicaso said these “merchants of death and addiction” in the end generally serve only one-sixth of their sentence. Until Canada approaches the matter of organized crime with a committed incentive, mobsters have no intentions of leaving.

The notoriety of past Mob bosses continues to instill such a fear in citizens even after their own deaths. For many people, at least, the Mafia does indeed exist.

Antonio Nicaso’s official website