The lawsuit for the $ 102 million gambling ring, allegedly controlled by Hells Angels, crashed on Wednesday. It happened after an Ontario Supreme Court judge suspended the charge for unreasonable delays. Crown prosecutors say the Covid-19 pandemic has delayed the complex and multijurisdictional case that involved a large number of disclosure documents.
In December 2019, police imposed several search warrants in southern Ontario. More than 30 people were arrested, moreover several weapons and millions of assets and currency were seized.
This was the culmination of the “Project Hobert”, a coordinated investigation of 14 police agencies. It included police surveillance and the infiltration of the ring, which operated several sports betting sites and an underground casino in Mississauga.
According to police, the Project Hobart began after the escalation of violent crimes linked to the group, such as attempted murders, arson and blackmail.
Prosecutors said the gambling network was associated with the powerful ’Ndrangheta-linked Siderno organized crime group, which has allegedly laundered more than C$70 million (US $ 53.5 million) in the past couple of years through licensed casinos.
One of the targets of the investigation, Angel Michael Deabaitua-Schulde, was murdered outside the Mississauga gym in broad daylight while the police was keeping an eye on him. On Wednesday, three Hells Angels (Craig McIlquham, Eugenio Reda, and Robert Barletta) were walking free after the case collapsed.
Barletta, the owner of a strip club in London, survived an assassination attempt while on bail and was awaiting trial.
The trio was charged with numerous offenses, including commission of offenses for a criminal organization, bookmaking, firearms, money laundering, and tax evasion. The case stayed, as it was estimated to last about 41 months. This is almost a year longer than the maximum term allowed by the Canadian Constitution.
In January 2021, the proceedings against two other people arrested in the Project Hobart police raids, the cousins Raffaele Simonelli and Michael Simonelli, also collapsed. This is because the defendants had to wait 12 days for the bail hearing.
In the meantime, in February 2021, cases were scuttled against 15 people accused of being high-ranked members of the ‘Ndrangheta. It happened when the police were accused of unlawful access to clien-lawyer privileged communications.
Among them was Angelo Figliomeni, also known as “Il Brigante” or “The Bandit”, who would have been the head of the syndicate. He arrived in Canada from Italy in 2010 to avoid 20 years in prison he was sentenced in his country.
The ‘Ndrangheta is now the most powerful criminal organization in Italy and probably in the world. It is present in more than 100 countries, it generates estimated revenues of $ 50 to $ 100 billion annually.
The organization is said to control 70% of cocaine in Europe and most of the illegal arms trade around the world.