Adrian Humphreys TORONTO — An international alert accusing a man living north of Toronto of being a mob boss went ignored by Canadian police because Canada does not recognize the crime of Mafia association, the tool used by the Italian government to tackle powerful organized crime groups, an immigration hearing heard Wednesday.
A warrant was issued in Italy for the arrest of Carmelo Bruzzese and registered with Interpol, the international police agency, on April 30, 2012, but he was not arrested even though local police agencies knew where he was living in Canada with his Canadian wife. He had even had interaction with police.
Instead, 16 months later, he was finally arrested in his home in Vaughan, Ont., on Aug. 23, 2013, by an immigration task force — but he is not charged with any crime, nor is he facing extradition to his homeland.
Rather, he faces an admissibility hearing before Canada’s Immigration and Refugee Board to determine if he should be deported from Canada as a foreign national engaged in organized crime. On Wednesday, Major Giuseppe De Felice, a commanding officer with Rome’s anti-Mafia police, testified that an international alert for Mr. Bruzzese’s arrest had been sent to the world’s police forces.
“Were Mr. Bruzzese stopped in any part of the world, an official document would attest to the fact that he is a fugitive,” said Maj. De Felice, through a translator.
Asked by Mr. Bruzzese’s lawyer, Barbara Jackman, why such a so-called “Red Notice” from Interpol would not be acted on by Canadian police, Maj. De Felice said it is likely because Canada does not consider Mafia association to be an extraditable offense.
Under Canada’s criminal code, people are extradited from Canada to another country to stand trial only if they are accused of something that is also considered a crime in Canada. While Canada has gangsterism charges, they are only laid when there is also evidence of other, overt criminal acts linked to organized crime. Mere membership or association is not a crime here.
It is not that the Red Notice was not known by Canadian authorities, Maj. De Felice said, but rather, “it’s a question of what can be done when they see it.”
Mr. Bruzzese, who turned 65 in prison last week, is accused by authorities of being the head of a clan of the ’Ndrangheta, the proper name of the Mafia formed in the Italian region of Calabria. Maj. De Felice said Mr. Bruzzese’s clan is based in Grotteria, just inland from the Ionic coast.
Wednesday’s hearing also heard arguments over whether an article in the National Post should be entered as evidence. The June 26 front-page article quoted Mr. Bruzzese disputing Maj. De Felice’s testimony during a break in the hearing.
“This man from Italy is a big liar, eh?” Mr. Bruzzese said. “This is a big lie. I don’t know how much they pay him.”
Andrej Rustja, acting on behalf of the Canada Border Services Agency, said Maj. DeFelice was outraged by the implication he was paid to give untruthful testimony.
Mr. Rustja said he intends to ask the Major to clarify whether he is being paid for his testimony.
Ms. Jackman objected to the article being entered as evidence, saying she was dismayed the major would be “so petty” and incapable of handling Mr. Bruzzese’s expression of frustration over his continued detention.
The IRB decision maker, Ama Beecham, determined the article would become part of the case’s records.
“Mr. Bruzzese may have lashed out because of his ill health or his frustration,” Ms. Beecham ruled. “You can ask him if he wants to clarify his statement.”
Mr. Bruzzese, however, did not seem prepared to recant. During a break in proceedings he told the Post he stood by the statement that Maj. De Felice lied.
“It’s true,” he said with a grin and a shrug.