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Cold calls, condolence cards: how Mob used intimidation to control construction

Businessman Martin Carrier testifies at the Charbonneau inquiry looking into corruption in the Quebec construction industry Wednesday, November 14, 2012 in Montreal.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Ryan Remiorz

MONTREAL - Quebec's public inquiry is getting a glimpse into how the Italian Mafia used its muscle to maintain control of the construction industry in Montreal.

With death threats and intimidation, the Mob would seek to squeeze out companies when they competed for work against members of the city's construction cartel.

An out-of-town construction owner testified Thursday that he received multiple threats after bidding on contracts in Montreal.

The Quebec City man, Martin Carrier, said he got a phone call at home in 2004. His daughter answered the phone and passed it to him.

On the other end of the line was a man with a heavy Italian accent. He warned him to stop working in the city, in the first of two similar phone calls Carrier received.

Carrier asked the man for his name. That prompted a curt reply.

"Never mind who I am," the caller said. "Because the next time you won't be walking away from here...

"Thank you and have a nice day."

He reported the initial phone call to police near Quebec City. The RCMP later came to visit him and told him that they'd recorded that call. They said the caller was Francesco Del Balso, one of the senior-most members of the Rizzuto crime family and one of the family's enforcers.

The tape was played Thursday at the inquiry.

Later, when he didn't back down, Carrier received a condolence card by courier at his office. It was the kind of card sent to a grieving family after a death.

The printed side of the card said: "Sincerest condolences." In neat handwriting, on the other side, the card read: "Dear friend, stop bidding in Montreal. If not, your family will receive a card just like this one. Final warning."

At the end of his testimony today, Carrier was saluted by inquiry chair France Charbonneau.

"I thank you, and I congratulate you for your extraordinary courage," she said.

Later Thursday, comission investigator Eric Vecchio took the witness stand and described Del Balso as a high-ranking member of the Rizzuto crime family.

Vecchio said he met with Del Balso at a federal penitentary in Drummondville, Que., recently to discuss the recording.

Del Balso was asked how the conversation came about and he told investigators that he made the call to Carrier as a favour to Nick Rizzuto Sr.

Vecchio said Del Balso wasn't involved in the construction industry. Vecchio said that Del Balso told him the construction racket was the responsiblity of Rocco Sollecito, another Rizzuto official.

Del Balso is in prison after pleading guilty to a variety of crimes. Like Sollecito, he was charged and convicted following a massive police sweep that arrested dozens of members of the Italian Mafia.


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