Will Vito Rizzuto appear at Quebec's construction inquiry?
Published Saturday, November 24, 2012 7:46AM EST
Last Updated Saturday, November 24, 2012 10:38PM EST
Purported Montreal Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto has been called to answer questions at the inquiry probing corruption in Quebec’s construction industry, reports say.
Rizzuto’s testimony could be the most explosive yet should he actually appear at the Charbonneau commission, which has already led to startling allegations of municipal corruption and the resignation of two mayors.
While the Surete du Quebec has not confirmed that Rizzuto was served a subpoena to appear at the inquiry, as reported by Radio-Canada, the agency did say officers found and met with Rizzuto last Monday.
"He was met -- I can confirm that," provincial police Sgt. Claude Denis told The Canadian Press.
"But that's all I can say."
Rizzuto, 66, has kept a low profile his release from a Colorado prison about seven weeks ago. He had served a five-year prison sentence for his involvement in the 1981 plot to murder three members of New York’s Bonanno crime family.
Mob experts have said that Rizzuto is a marked man after a violent uprising in the Quebec underworld in recent years led to the deaths of several close associates and family members, including a son and his father. Rizzuto’s father was gunned down when a sniper fired a shot through a window of his home.
While Vito Rizzuto’s name has only been mentioned a handful of times at the inquiry, his father, Nicolo, was seen on surveillance videos stuffing cash he received from construction bosses into his socks.
The inquiry has heard of collusion among construction companies that decided which firm would win city contracts, kick-backs to municipal officials and donations to Montreal political parties, revelations that led the mayors of both Montreal and Laval to step down.
Experts say that should Vito Rizzuto speak at the inquiry it would mean the end of his life as he once knew it in Montreal.
Investigative journalist Julian Sher, who has been following the commission, said the ordeal would be humiliating for Rizzuto.
“Being dragged in front of a public spectacle, to have the spotlight of the Charbonneau commission, of all the headlines, the TV cameras -- this is a huge embarrassment,” Sher said.
Crime writer James Dubro said Rizzuto could have a lot to reveal about a number of prominent figures in Quebec, including provincial and federal politicians. If he does talk, according to Dubro, he would likely have to go into hiding.
“If he testifies and if he testifies and tells the truth, he’ll be there for a month or two and he’ll have to go under police protection and change his name and the whole bit,” Dubro told CTV News Channel on Saturday. “It will be totally throwing in the towel.”
Witnesses testifying at the commission have agreed to do so under the condition they won’t be prosecuted, but Rizzuto’s lawyers may have an unexpected weapon to keep their client from the inquiry.
In a controversial decision, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled earlier this month that what a witness says during a public inquiry could be used to question their credibility if they ever testify in court.
“What the Supreme Court of Canada has now said in this decision is that you can use prior testimony if it goes to credibility, as if that were a minor issue,” lawyer Peter Jacobsen told CTV News. “Credibility is often the major issue in criminal matters.”
If Rizzuto does show up, it would be the first time in nearly four decades that an underworld figure has appeared at a provincial inquiry.
In the 1970s, mob kingpins Vic Cotroni and Paolo Violi were called to appear as witnesses at a provincial inquiry into organized crime and corruption.
However, they said little during the proceedings and were given one-year jail sentences for contempt of court.
With a report from CTV’s Daniele Hamamdjian and files from The Canadian Press