‘There’s a way into the ’Ndrangheta, but no exit,’ says Guiseppe Costa, who was convicted of 10 murders.
By: Peter Edwards
In happier times — before he was sent to an Italian prison for 10 underworld murders and 14 attempted murders — Giuseppe Costa sold tasty Italian pastries at a bakery on Toronto’s Dundas St. W.
That was in the late 1960s, before a deadly feud between his family and the rival Commisso clan that killed four of his brothers, including one on a residential Thornhill street.
Now in his 60s, the one-time mob boss appeared bright-eyed and grandfatherly as he spoke recently to a Radio-Canada crew from an undisclosed maximum-security Italian prison, where he is serving a life term.
Costa was also convicted of Mafia association.
He told of life in the ’Ndrangheta, an international criminal group that’s distinct from the Sicilian Mafia.
“The Sicilian Mafia once led in Canada,” Costa said in the interview, which will be broadcast on the Enquête program on Thursday. “Now, the ’Ndrangheta has the power.”
Costa’s face is digitally altered in the Enquête video to make him less of a target for would-be killers. The Star viewed an unaltered version of the interview.
He smiled and calmly spoke of tightening links between the ’Ndrangheta in Italy and itsCanadian counterpart, much of which is based in the GTA.
“Someone in the ’Ndrangheta in Canada feels like he’s at home,” Costa said. “He moves around. He has his place. He does his business.”
The ultimate power still lies in southern Italy, he said.
“The ones in Canada must always answer to headquarters, which is in Calabria,” Costa said.
While he was once a feared ’Ndrangheta boss, he’s now a pentiti, or former mobster who now co-operates with the state.
He said he eventually decided to help prosecutors fight the closed criminal culture for a variety of reasons.
There’s his sick wife, and his hopes to be allowed to spend some time with her.
There’s also frustration that the rival Commissos seemed to be getting out of prison more quickly.
And there’s the matter of someone in prison who seemed bent on killing him.
That said, Costa appeared in good spirits as he recounted life — and death — in the ’Ndrangheta in the GTA and Calabria.
He said the organization structures itself the same way in the GTA as in Italy.
“They are able to reproduce exactly the same structure, like a cancer,” Costa said. “ . . . That means Canada is ill.”
The organization thrives in Canada, in part, because the country lacks strong anti-Mafia legislation, unlike Italy and much of Europe, Costa said.
The ’Ndrangheta’s strict structure also extends to the U.S., Australia and Germany, as well as in prison life, he said.
“There is a hierarchy in relationships, and that always includes me,” he said of his time in prison.
He noted that he has stabbed another inmate in Spoleto prison in defense of an ’Ndrangheta boss.
He also spoke of how members of ’Ndrangheta families often shuffle between Canada and Italy, with residences in both countries.
There are also secret tunnels, like one discovered under the hills of the town of Plati, Calabria, with electricity, running water and a plaster Madonna.
Back when he lived in Toronto, the Costa and Commisso ’Ndrangheta families got along well moving drugs, he said.
Then came the split and the feud, as the Costas and Commissos each sought to control heroin and cocaine trafficking routes around the southern Italian city of Siderno.
Costa’s younger brother Giovanni, 38, was gunned down in his car near his home on White Blvd. in Thornhill in 1991, the fourth brother killed in the feud.
Earlier that year, Costa’s deaf-mute brother Vincenzo was murdered while cycling in Calabria.
Neither Giovanni nor Vincenzo Costa were considered criminals.
Giovanni, a father-of-three, was a wrought-iron worker in Concord.
Costa’s brothers Giuliano and Luciano were both players in the ’Ndrangheta. They both also lived for a time in the GTA.
Both of them were slain in southern Italy, Giuliano on July 31, 1989 and Luciano on Jan. 21, 1987.
The feud began with Luciano’s murder, after he was suspected of breaking into the home of the leader of the Commissos, stealing weapons, and then urinating on his bed as a final insult, according to Italian court documents.
At the time of Giovanni’s murder, Giuseppe was on the run from Italian police, who wanted him on various organized crime charges, including drug trafficking.
The feud killed 50 people, as blood called for blood, and Canada became a new battleground as Italian family members took cover.
Giuseppe Costa said that his old organization and its rivals remain active and strong in Canada, including the GTA.
He noted that Carmelo Bruzzese, 66, of Vaughan was deported in November to face ’Ndrangheta-related charges in Italy.
Bruzzese, who’s also a grandfather, divided his time between Vaughan and a villa in Calabria, which was equipped with what Italian police called a “sophisticated” secret bunker.
An Italian judge described him as “deeply imbedded in Canadian and Italian organized crime,” with connections that included ties to friends and enemies of the late Vito Rizzuto of Montreal.
“He had a very important role in this operation,” Costa said, “and is certainly a very important person for the Italian justice and prosecutor in Reggio Calabria.”
Long gone are the days when Costa had the power of life and death over other men and the hope of millions in drug profits.
Nowadays, his biggest dream is to be allowed to spend some time with his ailing wife.
While he yearns for peaceful family time, he harbours no illusions he can ever fully ditch his old life.
“There’s a way into the ’Ndrangheta, but no exit,” Costa said.