Each season of The Dark North will tell a true crime story in a different Canadian city. Season 1 examines the struggle for control of Montreal's underworld, produced by the Montreal Gazette and hosted by Paul Cherry.
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Gangs of Montreal: Who controls the underworld?
On the morning of October 9, 2015, five full-patch Hells Angels members filed into a heavy-security courtroom at a specially-built courthouse in north-end Montreal.
They were among 100 Quebec Hells Angels arrested in sweeping raids in 2009 and accused of conspiring to murder more than 150 people during Quebec's biker war in the 1990s.
The five men in court in October 2015 had been charged with first-degree murder and conspiracy to commit murder.
But in a stunning move, Superior Court Justice James Brunton ordered a stay of proceedings and ruled that the five men should be set free.
The last episode of our podcast, The Dark North: Gangs of Montreal, looks at that court case and the fate of the Hells Angels since 2015.
Montreal's underworld looks very different today than it did in 1977, where our story began.
Gangs of Montreal: Taking down the Rizzutos
The morning of Nov. 22, 2006 was cold and overcast.
Cars were pulling up to the back entrance of the Montreal headquarters of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Westmount, just west of downtown.
Inside the cars were some of the most powerful men in Montreal's underworld.
Out came Nicolo Rizzuto Sr., the man who had seized control of the Montreal Mafia in the late 1970s. Wearing his trademark fedora hat and a long coat, his wrists were bound with plastic tie wraps instead of handcuffs.
Rizzuto had kept a low profile in Montreal, but that all ended with his arrest.
Police had collected almost 2 million wiretapped conversations of Rizzuto and the other leaders of the Mafia, making decisions about crimes like extortion, illegal gambling, drug smuggling and sports betting.
Their investigation blew open the secrecy surrounding the Montreal Mafia and laid bare its extensive criminal organization.
Gangs of Montreal: Vito Rizzuto, Global Superboss
In this episode we take a closer look at Vito Rizzuto, the man who ran the Montreal mafia for decades.
While the New York crime families are more famous, the Montreal mob under Rizzuto had an international reach.
Besides drug smuggling, it ran loansharking and bookmaking schemes, and even illegal casinos.
But by the early 2000s, Vito Rizzuto’s reign was coming to an end.
Gangs of Montreal: The biker war
It was summer vacation, and a group of boys was playing in front of the Saint-Nom-de-Jésus school in Montreal's east-end neighbourhood of Hochelaga-Maisonneuve.
At 12:40 p.m. on Aug. 9, 1995, a man got into his Jeep parked across the tree-lined street from the school.
A powerful explosion sent the Jeep flying into the air. The blast was so violent it shattered nearby windows. Pieces of metal flew everywhere.
One of the pieces of metal struck one of the boys playing on the street, 11-year-old Daniel Desrochers. Desrochers, who was supposed to start Grade 6 in a few days, was hit in the head and died four days later in a hospital.
The bombing was tied to the biker war that had rocked Montreal for the previous year. Police said Desrochers was the first innocent victim of that war.
The Hells Angels, under the leadership of Maurice (Mom) Boucher, had taken on a group of criminal gangs called the Alliance. Boucher wanted total control of drug-trafficking turfs in Montreal.
Gangs of Montreal: Rise of the street gangs
Montreal's street gangs have grown from groups of teenagers banding together in the 1980s for protection to, at one point, being the Montreal police department’s top crime-fighting priority.
They work with other criminal gangs to traffic drugs, weapons and sex.
As he was being extradited to the U.S. on racketeering charges in 2006, Montreal Mafia boss Vito Rizzuto warned the police street gangs were going to become a force to be reckoned with. A prediction that appears to have come true.
An excellent and very well done show. Subject matter very interesting including to those from outside Montreal.
Excellent content and straight to the point.
Thank you for all your work....🥃
Comprehensive, extremely interesting and compelling.