The man police called the top Mafia boss in Toronto — and who Canada has been trying to deport for 40 years — has shot down another case against him, with the immigration board allowing him to stay in Canada because evidence he’s a mobster is only “circumstantial.”
The Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) found that Vincenzo DeMaria, known as Jimmy, is a permanent resident of Canada, and while the Italian-based ‘Ndrangheta Mafia is undoubtedly a criminal organization, the government did not prove he is a member of it.
DeMaria, 69, was born in Siderno, a town in Calabria, in Italy’s south, that has long been known as an ‘Ndrangheta stronghold. He came to Canada as a nine-month-old baby with his family, but never became a Canadian citizen.
After he shot a man who owed him money, killing him at a fruit store in Toronto in 1981, he could no longer become a Canadian. His murder conviction made him ineligible. In 1984 DeMaria was ordered out of the country because of his murder conviction, but won appeals to stay.
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He was released on full parole in 1992 and lived without legal problems for some time. Over the years, however, police investigators alleged he grew to become an influential member of the ‘Ndrangheta in Toronto.
One investigator named him the mob’s “top guy in Toronto.”
The IRB heard evidence from a previous criminal case, which heard an RCMP informant describe DeMaria as the chairman of the board for the Toronto region’s ‘Ndrangheta clans.
While police allegations have been enough to periodically get his lifetime parole suspended — sending him back to prison from time to time — there has not been another criminal prosecution against him.
The government has tried to deport him several times over decades. Each attempt has been successfully challenged and litigated by DeMaria.
The new decision comes nine years, almost to the day, that Canada Border Services Agency once again tried to deport him.
The latest move began in December 2014, when CBSA deemed him ineligible to remain in Canada as a non-Canadian citizen involved in organized crime.
The CBSA report alleged he “is a member of and engages in the activities of the Italian Organized Crime group known as the ‘Ndrangheta’ aka the Calabrian Mafia and that this group engages in international drug smuggling and money laundering.”
The designation was accepted by a panel of the IRB in 2018 after an admissibility hearing, and a deportation order was issued.
Authorities never got him on a plane to Italy, though.
As DeMaria has done in the past, over and over, in fact, he fought the allegations tooth and nail with a battery of lawyers and appeals with a legal war chest that he must have drained and replenished many times.
He challenged the decision in the Federal Court, and in 2019 the court ordered a new hearing.
That new hearing was held this spring.
At it, DeMaria testified over two days, denying a long list of allegations pointing to him as an influential ‘Ndrangheta member and saying ethnic profiling and anti-Italian stereotypes are behind efforts to deport him from Canada for organized criminal activity.
The burden of proof at an admissibility hearing is lower than in a criminal court. Instead of proof beyond reasonable doubt, the government needs only prove there are “reasonable grounds to believe.” But still the government didn’t get there.
The IRB decision-maker, Madona Mokbel, said in her ruling, obtained by National Post on Thursday, that DeMaria’s outright denial of any knowledge of the ‘Ndrangheta was not credible.
After all, he had repeatedly been seen to have contact, friendship, and kinship with people linked to the ‘Ndrangheta, and could be expected to have some knowledge that the organization exists. Even so, dubious claims do not make him a mobster, Mokbel said.
“The Panel finds that the Minister did not submit evidence that sufficiently establishes that Mr. DeMaria is a member of the ‘Ndrangheta. The Panel finds that the totality of the Minister’s evidence does not establish a connection between Mr. DeMaria and his membership in the ‘Ndrangheta on reasonable grounds to believe.”
The government presented evidence from former mobsters who had become informants, secretly recorded wiretaps of mobsters in Canada and Italy, and police reports of links over years between DeMaria and hit men, criminals, and known or suspect mobsters in Canada and Italy.
The information from court evidence given by a former mobbed up criminal named Carmine Guido, lacked context and clarity, she said.
The government also presented evidence from wiretaps of an ‘Ndrangheta member from Italy, Vincenzo Muià, who visited Canada to meet with Canadian mobsters in 2019. Muià was seen meeting with DeMaria’s brother, Giuseppe DeMaria, and cousin, Michele Carabetta, the IRB was told. Muià spoke about DeMaria in conversations secretly recorded by police.
Other wiretaps from Italy also recorded a senior ‘Ndrangheta boss in Siderno, Giuseppe Commisso — known as “The Master” — talking in some detail about DeMaria’s problems in Canada.
These too did not establish “a clear link” to DeMaria being a member of their organization.
“The Panel fails to see how Mr. Commisso’s knowledge of Mr. DeMaria’s legal troubles could lead to the conclusion that he is a member of the ‘Ndrangheta,” Mokbel’s decision says.
“While Mr. DeMaria may have had dealings with ‘Ndrangheta members, knowingly or otherwise, a thorough review of the evidence presented by the Minister reveals no indication, on reasonable grounds to believe, that Mr. DeMaria’s connections to these individuals, rise to the level of him being a member of the ‘Ndrangheta.”
DeMaria’s remarkable record of success fighting against government agencies trying to pen him in, pin him down, or kick him out have earned him a reputation as the ‘Teflon Don of Canada,’ because charges against him don’t stick. At least not since the big one, in the 1980s, that is still causing him problems.
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