Montreal police say 70-year-old Paolo Renda, a major player in the Montreal mafia, has been missing since Thursday afternoon, and was likely kidnapped.

Renda is considered to be the right-hand man of Nicolo Rizzuto Sr., the patriarch of the Rizzuto clan.

He is also the brother-in-law of Vito Rizzuto, the presumed head of the Montreal Mafia who is now serving time behind bars in the United States for racketeering, a conviction linked to three murders in Brooklyn in 1981.

Renda was arrested in a crackdown on the Mafia in Operation Colisee in 2006 and was identified by police as a money man in the organization.

He pleaded guilty to gangsterism charges and was recently paroled after serving two-thirds of a six-year prison term stemming from that arrest.

Mysterious disappearance

Renda left his home in his car and was supposed to return to the Cartierville residence Thursday afternoon.

Family members went to look for him when he failed to show up.

"Two blocks away they found the Infiniti, doors unlocked the windows down the keys in ignition," said CTV Montreal reporter Herb Luft reporting live from outside the family home in Cartierville.

Montreal police Const. Raphael Bergeron said Renda's life is likely in danger.

"We fear for his life. (It's) a possible kidnapping. We don't know what could happen in the next couple of hours or next couple of days, so obviously we care for his security right now," said Bergeron.

Police would not speculate on whether Renda had been the subject of recent threats, and said there had not been any ransom demands.

"It's too soon to determine a motive for the kidnapping," Bergeron said.


Mafia expert and author Adrian Humphreys said the motive for a kidnapping could be to instill fear, show no one's untouchable, send a message, or use Renda to open negotiations.

But Humphreys said he is convinced the goal was not to kill him.

"Common sense says it's easier to put bullets in a man than to take him from a car, put him in another car and remove him somewhere. So I feel strongly that if Paulo Renda was kidnapped, he was taken for a reason and that must offer some comfort to the family -- that in all likelihood Mr. Renda is alive and well today," Humphreys said.

Rizzuto clan targeted

Renda's disappearance is the latest in a series of strikes against the Rizzuto clan since Vito Rizzuto was jailed.

The family and its associates have been targeted in a series of slayings that crime analysts say appear to be an attempt to destabilize the family's long-standing hold on power.

Vito Rizzuto's son, Nick Rizzuto Jr. was gunned down in a brazen daylight shooting in N.D.G. in last December.

In March, a pair of gunmen walked into the Flawnego clothing boutique in Old Montreal and shot four people. Two of the men died from their gunshot wounds.

Police sources suggested that investigators believe the shooting may be linked to the slaying of Rizzuto Jr.

On Friday, Nick Rizzuto sr. was to appear in court in for an impaired driving case.

But his lawyer postponed the proceedings, citing concerns for Rizzuto's safety.

With files from The Canadian Press