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A joint investigation reveals how the mafia allegedly infiltrated two major Canadian banks.


A faction of the ’Ndrangheta based in Toronto allegedly relied on relationships with staff at two major Canadian banks to facilitate their financial activities.

Police dubbed their investigation Project Sindacato, and later called it “the biggest mafia takedown” in their history.

Key Findings
  • An alleged faction of the ’Ndrangheta led by an Italian immigrant to Canada, Angelo Figliomeni, appears to have had close relationships with employees at the Royal Bank of Canada and TD.
  • Figliomeni declined to comment, and the charges against him were retracted.
  • Court filings, exhibits, and an internal police report indicate that police investigated two bankers for allegedly helping the group launder the proceeds of crime.
  • Reporters have also linked another employee of TD to the Figliomeni group via Italian police surveillance records.
  • The RBC banker was charged with money laundering, and his bank has said it spotted suspicious transactions linked to him. He declined to comment on the police allegations, which were never tried in court.
  • Neither TD bankers were charged, and both declined to comment. One remains at his bank on administrative leave.
  • Angelo Figliomeni wanted answers. The alleged mob boss had sent an associate to deposit into his account at the Royal Bank of Canada, but there was less cash than expected.
What did the police hear?
  • He got on the line with his “client care manager” at the bank branch, Nicola “Nick” Martino — who police alleged also happened to be a member of his organised crime group.
  • “Thirteen thousand, three hundred, tell me why?” Figliomeni asked Martino.
  • “Three days short, ‘cause it was February checks,” the banker replied.
  • “Always an excuse!” Figliomeni barked at Martino.
  • Little did they know, police were listening in.

Police suspected the deposits were part of a steady flow of “pay up” funds

  • Police suspected the deposits were part of a steady flow of “pay up” funds –– payments from members of the alleged criminal group to their boss. The money was deposited into Figliomeni’s accounts at RBC by associates who police alleged were involved in a mafia money laundering scheme, court records show.
  • Police investigated Martino for helping the funds flow into seemingly legitimate accounts, but charges against him were not brought to trial.
  • The Italian-born Figliomeni is the suspected leader of a powerful Toronto-based faction of the ’Ndrangheta –– a violent and secretive organization with tentacles stretching across the globe from its base in southern Italy.
  • His day job, according to police, is selling panini and delivering baked goods through businesses he owns in Vaughan, a city in the Greater Toronto Area. But in 2017, York Regional Police in Ontario launched a sprawling organized crime investigation targeting Figliomeni and his associates.

No prosecution

  • But all charges against Figliomeni, Martino and other suspects were eventually stayed, police said. Prosecutors decided not to proceed after it was shown that police had listened to calls between defendants and their lawyers.
  • The decision forced authorities to return more than CAN$35 million (US$27 million) worth of assets, police said. It also meant the details of the group’s alleged abuse of Canadian financial institutions were never made public in court.
  • Police alleged that one of the TD employees was “fully aware of the money laundering endeavours” of the Figliomeni group. Neither of them were charged.

Joint investigation from OCCRP, The Toronto Star, and Italy’s la Repubblica newspaper

  • Now, a joint investigation from OCCRP, The Toronto Star, and Italy’s la Repubblica newspaper reveals how Figliomeni and his associates allegedly infiltrated two major Canadian banks.
  • Reporters obtained court records from Project Sindacato, and spoke with law enforcement and banking sources close to the investigation. They also scoured court documents from Italy, where police worked on a parallel investigation in collaboration with their Canadian counterparts.
  • In addition to Martino at RBC, reporters uncovered evidence that Figliomeni’s associates had contact with two TD Bank employees.
  • Through his lawyer, Martino declined to comment. Michael Lacy, a lawyer for Figliomeni, said: “Our client is neither participating nor commenting on your inquiries. You should draw nothing from his decision in that regard.”
  • In a joint motion during the case, lawyers for the defendants argued that police had “investigative tunnel vision,” mischaracterising “mundane and innocuous actions as sinister criminal meetings” to match their preconceived notion that the accused were mobsters.
  • As part of the investigation, police abused the use of wiretaps and conducted “significant invasions of privacy,” violating the rights of the accused, the lawyers alleged.
  • In court filings, Figliomeni’s lawyers described their client’s phone conversations with Martino as regular interactions between a legitimate businessman and his banker.
  • Martino’s lawyers said in their legal filings that police had overstated Martino’s role and authority at RBC and misrepresented his communications with Figliomeni.

Read on


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