Thursday, September 5, 2013

Carmelo Bruzzese facing Italian Mafia charges detained in Milton

A Vaughan grandfather wanted in Italy on Mafia-related charges remains behind bars in Milton after being arrested on an immigration warrant.

Carmelo Bruzzese, 64, was ruled a flight risk after his arrest late last month by the RCMP and Canada Border Services Agency.

His detention review has lasted six days and is expected to last into next week. Detention reviews often last less than half an hour.

His lawyer, Guidy Mamann, was unavailable for comment.

Bruzzese is an Italian citizen who has spent time in Canada on and off for the past five decades. His wife and son are Canadian citizens.

He once told a Canadian police officer he sold firewood for a living, perhaps referring to his friends who run garden centres.

Canadian authorities have taken a far harsher view on his activities here.

Anna Pape, a spokesperson for CBSA, said he was arrested Aug. 23 under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act, which states that a permanent resident or a foreign national may be inadmissible for Canadian residence “on grounds of organized criminality.”

“The CBSA is alleging that Mr. Bruzzese is inadmissible to Canada due to his membership in a criminal organization,” Pape said in a prepared statement.

The CBSA has argued that he “misrepresented himself concerning previous charges in both Italy and the USA,” Pape said.

Italian authorities issued a warrant for Bruzzese in April 2012.

“CBSA has diligently pursued an investigation into Mr. Bruzzese, and is now in a position to make a case against him based on the necessary evidence,” Pape said.

Until recently, Bruzzese divided his time between the GTA, where he has a daughter and grandchildren, and a villa in Calabria, Italy.

In Italy, it’s a criminal offence to belong to an organized crime group, but in Canada, authorities need specific evidence of illegal acts to trigger arrests.

Bruzzese’s family had come under fire from police in Canada since the mid-2000s.

His daughter is married to Antonio Coluccio, who was deported to Italy in 2010 because of connections to organized-crime figures. Coluccio was not charged with any crime in Canada, but his brothers Giuseppe and Salvatore are in custody in Italy on international drug-trafficking charges.

Giuseppe and Salvatore Coluccio had lived in York Region in the mid-2000s.

Bruzzese’s son Carlo, a Canadian citizen by birth, is in custody in Italy, serving a six-year sentence for the Italian crime of Mafia association.

In 2009, Italian police secretly filmed Bruzzese and others talking at a shopping mall in Siderno, Italy, with Giuseppe (Il Mastro) Commisso, considered a leader of a powerful faction of the Mafia called 'Ndrangheta.

Bruzzese’s voice appeared on Italian police wiretaps in conversation with underworld figures, including Vito Rizzuto of Montreal. Rizzuto returned to Canada last October after serving 5 ½ years in a Colorado prison for his role in three gangland slayings in New York.

Bruzzese had a “sophisticated” secret bunker in his coastal Italian home, according to Italian authorities.

Commisso was sentenced to 14 years and eight months in prison on various organized-crime charges as a result of a two-year police project called Operazione Crimini.

Those secretly recorded conversations picked up Bruzzese gossiping with Commisso and telling him about infighting among ‘Ndrangheta factions.

Bruzzese was captured participating in friendly telephone chats with Rizzuto in 2004.

The details of the wiretaps are contained in a 271-page ruling at a preliminary hearing issued by Judge Guglielmo Muntoni of the Rome Tribunal in 2008, obtained by the Star and Radio-Canada.

On Jan. 15, 2004, the wiretap transcripts picked up Bruzzese chatting with Rizzuto about personal family affairs and an unspecified exchange.

Five days later, Rizzuto was arrested in Montreal for his role in three gangland slayings in 1981. That day, Rizzuto’s street boss, Francesco Arcadi, called Bruzzese, according to the wiretap transcripts.

“It’s really honestly bad news,” Bruzzese said. “I hope that everything will be resolved shortly.”
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