Canada ministers slammed for delays in Mafia arrest

Canada ministers slammed for delays in Mafia arrest

Canada's official opposition on Monday demanded the resignation of two government ministers over the case of an alleged Sicilian Mafia leader who spent almost five years in Canada before being arrested.

The furor surrounding Gaetano Amodeo, who first moved to Canada in 1996, has focused attention on what critics say is Ottawa's poor record at identifying and arresting major criminals operating in Canada.

Amodeo, on Interpol's list of 500 most dangerous fugitives, was arrested in Montreal last month on Italian and German murder charges and is expected to be extradited to Italy soon.

At the time Immigration Minister Elinor Caplan denied her officials had erred by allowing Amodeo to enter Canada and live there, saying authorities detained Amodeo the second they realized he was in the country.

But Canadian Alliance leader Stockwell Day told parliament on Monday that Italian authorities had in fact told Canadian police in 1999 that Amodeo was in Canada.

Day said this cast serious doubts over the competence of Solicitor-General Lawrence MacAulay, who is in overall charge of Canada's law enforcement agencies, and he suggested MacAulay had suppressed information.

"This is a very serious situation. We have a situation where one minister tells us one thing. The solicitor-general appears to withhold information. It is all related to the security of our citizens and an accused murderer," he said.

"The principle of ministerial responsibility is a foundation of our democracy. Would the prime minister ask one or both of these ministers to resign over this irresponsible action?" he asked parliament.

Deputy Prime Minister Herb Gray, dismissing Day's allegations as "a comedy routine", said it had taken time to track down Amodeo.

"When there was sufficient information, including a positive identification and knowledge of Mr Amodeo's whereabouts, the police engaged the assistance of immigration officials," he replied.

Canadian authorities are already on the defensive over the case of Algerian-born Ahmed Ressam, who was detained in 1999 as he crossed into the United States from Canada with what U.S. police said was bomb-making components.

Ressam, who moved to Canada in 1994, was not picked up by Canadian police despite a deportation order served after he was turned down for refugee status.

U.S. politicians reacted by slamming Canada for lax security and immigration policies. Ressam went on trial in Los Angeles on Monday on charges of taking part in a plot to detonate bombs at U.S. millennial sites.

Caplan said last month she was considering ways to implement more stringent passport checks at Canada's borders.

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