MONTREAL – In a major police operation dubbed “Project Clemenza,” RCMP and Quebec police said that they dismantled two “violent and active” Italian-based organized crime cells.
More than 200 officers were involved in the raids, which began at 6 a.m. Thursday.
Thirty-one suspects were arrested in locations across the province, including in Montreal, Gatineau, Laval and Quebec City.
Officials confirmed that three suspects remain at large. They are 23-year-old Hussein Abdallah, 49-year-old Giovanni Gerbasi and 50-year-old Patrizio Silvano.
Officials said Project Clemenza began in 2010. The purpose of the operation on Thursday was to dismantle two major cells that took over organized crime in Quebec after Project Colisée, a three-year police investigation into Montreal’s Mafia that led to the end of the Rizzuto family’s hold on organized crime in the city in 2006.
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Authorities said that they believe that one of the cells was associated with the Bastone brothers and the other with the now deceased Giuseppe De Vito, who died in prison in 2013 of cyanide poisoning.
In a press conference on Thursday morning, RCMP Superintendent Michel Arcand confirmed that investigators used intercepted BlackBerry messages to identify a number of suspects connected to a series of violent crimes committed in the Montreal area, including arson, forcible confinement, drug trafficking, gangsterism and conspiracy.
“This was the first time that this technique was used on such a large scale in a major investigation in North America,” said Arcand.
“Over one million private messages were intercepted and analyzed as evidence using the PIN to PIN interception technique.”
Ten searches were conducted, and officers seized firearms, drugs, two residences belonging to Roberto Baston in Laval and St-Côme, as well as two bank accounts.
The suspects are expected to appear in court on Thursday afternoon to face a total of 87 counts, including conspiracy, gangsterism, drug importation, trafficking and possession, kidnapping and forcible confinement, possession of weapons and explosives, arson, extortion and assault.
Project Clemenza was carried out in partnership with Quebec’s provincial police, Montreal and Laval police forces, Canada Border Services Agency, Canada Revenue Agency and the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre of Canada.
© Shaw Media, 2014