Extra kilos helped crack Montreal cocaine case, court hears
MONTREAL — Greed helped police crack a case where employees at the Montreal Airport were helping the Mafia smuggle large shipments of cocaine into Canada, a court heard Monday.
In his opening statement in the trial of eight men accused of conspiring to help smuggle cocaine into Canada, Crown prosecutor Alexandre Dalmau said a decision to increase a cocaine shipment from 120 to 218 kilograms is what helped police uncover a broader conspiracy.
Five of the eight men on trial worked at the Pierre Elliott Trudeau International Airport in various capacities before they were arrested in Project Colisee in November 2006. The case is being heard at the Montreal courthouse before Quebec Court Judge Claude Parent.
Dalmau described the eight as men who worked underneath Giuseppe Torre, 38, and Ray Kanho, 33. Both had connections that helped them ship large quantities of cocaine on flights arriving in Montreal from countries such as Venezuela and Dominican Republic.
Torre and Kanho used their ties to the Montreal Mafia to get the cocaine through the airport. In turn, Mafia leaders such as Francesco Arcadi were paid a sort of tribute for letting the pair use the mob's "door" through the airport. The tribute was based on the number of kilograms smuggled in.
But Torre lied about how much cocaine he planned to bring in on a flight in January 2005. He claimed it would only be 120 kilograms but the RCMP seized the shipment on Jan. 23 and issued a news release the following day, stating they seized 218 kilograms hidden in the false bottoms of baggage containers at the airport.
Dalmau told Parent that, while the RCMP knew the cocaine was arriving on a flight from Haiti, investigators did not know how it would be smuggled. The RCMP searched the plane thoroughly after it arrived in Montreal but couldn't locate the cocaine. It was through listening to wiretaps, as the co-conspirators reacted to the search over their cellphones, that investigators learned of the false bottoms on the baggage containers. One airport employee tried to hide the containers by creating a large snowbank around them.
Torre's life was in danger after the drug bust. His father held a meeting with Arcadi and other mob leaders to discuss the matter. Arcadi eventually decided to financially sanction Kanho and Torre but let them resume using "the door." The conflict within the organization, played out on wiretaps, helped reveal the broader conspiracy, Dalmau told Parent.
The trial is expected to last four weeks and will include more than 1,000 wiretapped conversations between the accused and co-conspirators.
Among the eight men on trial are: Marco Pedicelli, 39, who worked for Air Canada; Emilio Rafeli, 31, and Eugenio Reda, 32, who worked for Globe Ground, a company that handled baggage at the airport; Marco Cerone, 45, an employee for Cara, a food services company that supplies the airline industry; and Achille Torre, 40, who worked for Cara before the Colisee investigation began. He is Giuseppe Torre's brother.
The three other men accused — Jose Merdardo Castillo Martinez, 41, Dany Cecere, 30, and Gaetan Dugas, 33 — are accused of handling cocaine for Kanho after it left the airport, Dalmau said.
The accused are charged with conspiracy, possession of cocaine with the intent to traffic and committing a crime for the benefit of a criminal organization.
Giuseppe Torre and Kanho are already serving a lengthy sentence for crimes related to the Colisee investigation.
BY PAUL CHERRY, MONTREAL GAZETTENOVEMBER 2, 2009