The man who decades ago infiltrated the New York Mafia in an operation immortalized in a 1997 Hollywood film will testify next week at Quebec's corruption inquiry, according to a report.
It wouldn't be the first time on a high-profile witness stand for Joseph Pistone, the retired cop who assumed the Brasco identity during his undercover days and who is still hiding from the Mafia all these years later as a result of his old career.
One crime expert says Pistone remains an authority on the Italian Mafia and may be able to provide a broader picture of how the organization works.
But given that his expertise was gathered in another era, in another country, he might not have relevant specifics to share at Quebec's inquiry, the expert said.
"He's very knowledgeable, he's very intelligent," said Antonio Nicaso, an author and expert on the Mafia in Canada.
"But I don't know what he can add about the Canadian side (of the Mafia)."
The French-language arm of the CBC reports that Pistone will testify on Monday — which happens to be his 73rd birthday. Spokespeople for the inquiry have not confirmed or denied the report.
Quebec's Charbonneau commission is looking into criminal corruption in the construction industry and its ties to organized crime and political parties. Hearings are scheduled to begin again Monday after a nearly three-month summer pause.
Pistone is no stranger to testifying.
After infiltrating the infamous Bonanno crime family, and to a lesser extent the Colombo family, between 1976 to 1981, he spent the years that followed testifying in several trials that led to more than 100 federal convictions.
The Bonannos are alleged to have links to Montreal's Rizzuto clan. In fact, Vito Rizzuto has spent the last several years in a U.S. prison in connection with 1981 murders that were referenced in the "Donnie Brasco" movie featuring Al Pacino and Johnny Depp.
Rizzuto is slated for release from a U.S. prison early next month.
Nicaso doubts that Pistone knows much about the Mafia in Canada or is up to date on current events. Montreal's Mafia has been torn apart by a bloody power struggle since Rizzuto was extradited in 2006.
But Pistone is aware of just how the Mob functions — whether in Quebec or elsewhere — and might provide the commission with valuable insight.
"The Mafia is an organization that was capable of remaining in business for so long only because of its capacity to build relationships with politicians, businessmen, bankers," Nicaso said.
"If they were only violent criminals, they wouldn't have survived this long."
Nicaso says that relationship with politics, legitimate business and the financial world is the key to understanding the Mafia's reach.
Pistone noted in 1988, during testimony before a United States senate sub-committee, that organized crime was already undergoing a culture shift in that country.
"I think it has changed in that with the younger members coming up, they are not as dedicated to the society as the older individuals," Pistone testified then, noting that the new generation was less tied to tradition.
"On the other hand, they have changed by diversifying more in their illegal activities. They are putting more of their illegal proceeds into legal businesses, legitimate businesses."
Charbonneau commission spokesman Richard Bourdon said Thursday that he would not confirm Pistone's presence next week. Witnesses to the commission are made public 24 to 48 hours in advance.
Pistone, who retired from the FBI in 1986, has worked as a consultant to law-enforcement agencies and as an FBI trainer since then. He has also authored several books and worked in film and television.
But the police legend leads a very secretive life.
He reportedly has a $500,000 bounty on his head and, even after three decades and an FBI warning for mobsters to leave him alone, Pistone still treads carefully.
In a 2005 interview with National Geographic about a documentary on the Mafia, Pistone indicated he was still taking precautions and travelling under an assumed name and in disguise.
In a 2008 interview with a journalist in Las Vegas, he changed the location of the interview at the last minute and when they finally met he was accompanied by bodyguards.
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