Montreal organized crime figure Francesco Del Balso killed in daylight shooting
Montreal police (SPVM) are investigating after a 53-year-old man was gunned down in broad daylight in the suburb of Dorval on Monday afternoon.
A source told CTV News that the victim is Francesco Del Balso, who has links to Montreal's Mafia.
Montreal police (SPVM) have not released the victim's identity. They said that shortly before 1 p.m., officers were called to the shooting on St. Regis Boulevard near Deacon Avenue.
When they arrived at the scene, officers found the man shot in the upper body in a parking lot near the Monster Gym. He was confirmed dead on the scene. The killing marks the 12th homicide in Montreal so far this year.
There have been no arrests, and the investigation is ongoing.
According to one Mafia expert, Del Balso was a senior member of the Rizzuto organized crime family who used to run gambling operations and later clashed with the organization's leader.
Antonio Nicaso, a Queen's University professor and author who has written extensively on Montreal organized crime, told CTV News that his killing "confirms that the Montreal war is not yet over."
"And the power vacuum caused by the death of Vito Rizzuto continues to provoke violence among the various factions of what was once the most powerful Mafia family in Canada," Nicaso said in an interview Monday evening.
Del Balso was arrested in September for allegedly trying to extort nuns and a priest at the Saint-Maxime Church in Laval.
In 2006, he was arrested in Project Colisee during a police sweep of the Montreal Mafia. He was convicted of gangsterism and conspiracy to import and sell cocaine to the Hell's Angels. He was released in 2016, reinterned and then released again in 2017.
More recently, Del Balso was suspected by police of being behind the attempted murder of Leonardo Rizzuto, the son of the late Mafia godfather, Vito Rizzuto.
Rizzuto survived the assassination attempt in mid-March in Laval after being shot in the leg while driving on a highway.
A few days later, Del Balso was intercepted by police at Montreal-Trudeau airport as he attempted to leave the country. He was subsequently released, but his passport was seized.
Nicaso believes Del Balso felt he was being hunted down and had no way to defend himself and that his slaying was most likely the result of clashes with the leaders of the powerful crime family.
"The idea of finding a leader, someone capable to replace Rizzuto, did not receive a general consensus .. so various people started to fight one another. So Francesco Del Balso was one of those. He thought that he had the skills, the experience, the expertise to run the gambling business, and he tried to get more power, more space and most likely, he clashed with the leaders of the organization," Nicaso said.
"As we learned from Shakespeare, successions are always painful. So this is another of those succession struggles that will cause a lot of pain, a lot of blood."
Retired Montreal police officer André Durocher described Del Balso as "an enforcer" whose life was threatened in recent months, which is something investigators "cannot ignore" as they begin their investigation.
Durocher, who spent more than 30 years on the force in Montreal, said a major concern for police is the risk these assassinations pose to the public.
"It's a preoccupation if there's an innocent bystander that could be shot. It's a major preoccupation for law enforcement agencies," he said.
- Listen on CJAD 800: “It was a death wish”: Former Montreal police investigator Pietro Polleti on the killing of Mafioso Francesco Del Balso
The first step for investigators would be to determine if the location of the shooting was part of Del Balso's regular routine or if he was directed there by someone else for an appointment.
Durocher agreed that the lack of stable leadership in Montreal's Mafia means more killings like Monday's hit can be expected.
"Unfortunately, given the nature of the business," he said, "there will most likely be a next one."
THIRD MOB-RELATED SHOOTING SINCE MARCH
Del Balso's killing comes less than three weeks after another shooting in broad daylight involving families linked to organized crime.
Claudia Iacono, 39, was gunned down May 16 in the parking lot of her salon in Montreal's Cote-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grace borough.
Iacono was the daughter-in-law of Moreno Gallo, a man with links to organized crime who was assassinated in a Mexican restaurant in 2013. She was a mother of two.
Experts who monitor the Mafia say the targeting of a woman is rare and goes against the "unwritten rules" of the organized crime underworld.
Nicaso said there is no evidence linking her death with the Del Balso killing or the attempt on Leonardo Rizzuto's life in March.
With files from The Canadian Press