Montreal’s first murder of the year was that of infamous real estate developer Tony Magi, who had deep ties to the city’s underworld.
Magi, in his late fifties, was reportedly shot “at least once in the head” Thursday morning in the city’s NDG borough. A pre-recorded phone statement by Montreal police confirmed that he had “succumbed to his injuries, making it the first homicide to take place in Montreal in 2019,” adding that the investigation was “ongoing.”
And while there are many possibilities as to who killed Magi, the real mystery is how he managed to stay alive for so long, having apparently been a marked man for the better part of 15 years.
In 2005, he was kidnapped by two men and managed to escape, calling Nick Rizzuto Jr. instead of the police shortly thereafter. In 2008, Magi was shot multiple times while driving his Range Rover and spent several weeks in a coma. In 2011, a man opened fire on his wife, who was not injured, in broad daylight. In 2013, Magi’s bodyguards intercepted a man who brandished a gun outside of Magi’s home.
Magi’s most infamous connection to organized crime in Montreal, however, is undoubtedly his connection to the murder of Nick Rizzuto (“Nick Junior”), son of Vito Rizzuto, long believed to have been the head of Canada’s Sicilian Mafia, and grandson of former boss Nicolo Rizzuto (“Nick Senior”). In 2009, Nick Junior was gunned down right outside of Magi’s FTM Construction offices, in a crime that has since generated several theories but remains officially unsolved.
"We had bought a piece of land together which we are developing," Magi once said of Nick Rizzuto Jr. to the Montreal Gazette, prior to the killing. "He's studied law and he's a smart kid. He's smart in real estate. The poor guy. He tries to do something in his life and, because of his family's past history, every time he turns around he gets hit with something."
Antonio Nicaso is the author of more than 20 books about organized crime, including Business or Blood: Mafia Boss Vito Rizzuto's Last War, which served as the basis for the recent Canadian crime drama Bad Blood. For Nicaso, Magi’s death represents not only a consolidation of power among the Rizzuto family’s enemies, but a reflection of a life lived on the edge, even by Montreal’s organized crime standards.
“Mr. Magi has always been a very controversial character,” Nicaso says. “He has lived a life full of risk and dangers; he was acquainted with the street gangs and he had close ties to the Montreal Mafia, even though he always denied that. Rumours say that he was very close to Ducarme Joseph, the key suspect in the Nick Junior murder.”
Ducarme Joseph was allegedly a high-ranking member of Montreal’s street gangs and eventually killed in 2014, some suspect, in retributribution for Nick Jr.’s death.
According to Nicaso, we are still living in a post-Vito world, where old grudges abide. “For now, it’s safe to say that the death of Vito Rizzuto left a vacuum that will never again be filled by a single dominant leader,” he says. “The space that Rizzuto left will be awash in bad blood and there will be more—eventually—blood. But I don’t think that this is a chapter in the power struggle, I think that this is retribution. This was a kind of unfinished business.”
Retribution for what? Nicaso refuses to speculate, but he does acknowledge Magi’s talent for pissing people off. “It could be retribution for a lot of different things; he lived on the edge all of his life.”
John Westlake is a veteran of both the Montreal police force and the RCMP. He is also a former resident of NDG, where every attempt on Magi’s life took place, and says he knew Tony Magi and his family personally.
“It’s definitely a mob killing,” Westlake told VICE. “It’s not somebody that he owed $10,000, that’s for sure. It’s crazy. The funeral’s going to be interesting, the police will be there with their cameras.”
“It doesn’t point to a shift, the shift’s already there—the Hamilton people are back,” he explained. “Maybe they want to finish off the Rizzuto people and obviously Tony was a Rizzuto guy.”
Magi’s status as a “Rizzuto guy” is indeed irrefutable. Not only had he been in business with Nick Rizzuto, but he could also be heard speaking directly to Vito Rizzuto, who once governed Montreal’s “consortium” of Italian, Irish, Colombian, and biker gangs, in wiretaps. “The Rizzutos are finished,” Westlake concludes.
Magi had been developing Montreal real estate up until his death, though the criminal shadows of his past may have finally crept up on him. As Antonio Nicaso put it, rather poetically, “In the life of mobsters, blood flows from generation to generation and that does not change, like the world and the sky. Blood calls to blood and blood washes blood.”
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