Charges have been stayed in one of the largest organized crime investigations in Ontario’s history after lawyers for the accused alleged York Regional Police (YRP) wiretapped phone calls that should have been protected by solicitor-client privilege.
“The communications were between some of the accused… and people who were clearly lawyers,” said lawyer Michael Lacy, who represents one of the accused, Angelo Figliomeni.
“It also involved people who were not accused and people, who to the knowledge of the police, were lawyers.
“We made the claim that it was unlawful and rather than letting a judge decide on the issues, the Crown decided not to go through with the prosecution.”
In July 2019, police released details of the massive bust that had aimed to take down, what they believed to be, a traditional organized crime network — allegedly led by Figliomeni — with deep ties to the mafia in Italy.
The operation, dubbed Project Sindacato, started in 2018 and took 18 months and $8 million dollars to complete.
Eight police services worked on the investigation, including the Canada Revenue Agency and Italian State Police.
It eventually resulted in 15 people being arrested in Ontario, nine of whom were facing charges including money laundering and participation in a criminal organization
Approximately $35 million in assets, including jewelry, homes and cars, were also seized.
Lacy, who only represents Figliomeni, confirmed all nine people charged in the investigation have now had their charges stayed.
“He’s glad that this chapter is over, obviously, and that these allegations are no longer pursued,” said Lacy with respect to his client.
“At the same time, there’s no joy in the fact that he was maligned when he was arrested, police held this show-and-tell press conference… there’s no joy that my client had to go through this to begin with.”
Lacy said he raised allegations of “unlawful” wiretapping between the accused and their lawyers, which he said he believes prompted the Crown to review the matter and the Toronto Police Service’s professional standards unit being contacted.
He claimed the results of the Toronto police investigation were shown to the Crown. The charges were subsequently stayed. Lacy added he has yet to see the findings of that investigation.
Crown prosecutor Xenia Proestos, who stayed the charges in late January, did not respond to Global News’ request for comment.
Meanwhile, a YRP statement said the service is “extremely disappointed in the Crown Attorney’s decision to not proceed to trial on the criminal charges against the accused parties.”
“It should be noted that YRP worked collaboratively and diligently with the Crown from the onset of, and throughout, the criminal investigation,” wrote Const. Laura Nicolle.
“We received advice from the Crown at several junctures, relating to appropriate charges and investigative methods and to ensure the Crown was satisfied of a reasonable prospect of conviction.”
The Canada Revenue Agency did not respond to Global News’ request for comment.