Tony Magi could only escape death for so long.
A Montreal construction magnate with close ties to the Mafia, Magi seemed to be the man who couldn’t be killed. He was kidnapped in 2005, but survived. He was shot three times in 2008 while sitting in his Range Rover, but woke up from the coma.
In 2009, Magi’s business partner Nick Rizzuto Jr. — son of the infamous mob boss Vito Rizzuto — was assassinated near the Montreal offices of Magi’s company, FTM Construction. Two years later Magi’s wife was shot at while driving her SUV, but emerged unscathed.
In 2013, Magi’s security guards chased off an armed man approaching his home.
But on Thursday morning, Montreal police responded to a 911 call reporting gunshots in the west-end neighbourhood of Notre-Dame-de-Grâce. Upon arrival, they found Magi lying unconscious on the sidewalk outside a construction site, shot at least once. He died shortly afterward.
Magi and his brother Rino were prominent developers in Montreal for many years, but in the early 2000s their real estate business fell into financial trouble. While Rino became embroiled in a telemarketing fraud case, Tony’s problems started with an ambitious luxury condo project in Montreal’s Old Port, a $71-million project to convert an old warehouse on the waterfront.
The 2014 Charbonneau Commission, a public inquiry into corruption in Quebec’s construction industry, heard evidence that when the condo project’s financing fell apart, it was Vito Rizzuto — the Sicilian Mafia don who died in 2013 — who came to the rescue. The commission heard wiretaps of phone calls between Rizzuto and Magi, with Rizzuto promising the condo project would be “one of the hottest places in the city.”
(Among those who bought in the building was Clément Gascon, now a Supreme Court of Canada judge; in 2016 Gascon sued for millions after major construction defects were found.)
Magi and Rizzuto were effectively business partners from 2003 to 2005, and Rizzuto’s son Nick would go on to work with Magi in the construction business. But Magi’s involvement with the mob quickly spiralled downward.
In the early hours of Aug. 11, 2008, Magi was stopped at a traffic light in his Range Rover when he was sprayed with gunfire. One bullet hit the back of his head; a second entered his back shoulder; a third hit him in the ribs.
The Montreal Gazette reported at the time that it appeared to be an “underworld settling of accounts,” and that police investigators figured Magi’s mob protection faltered after Vito Rizzuto was extradited to the U.S. in 2006 to face racketeering charges.
Magi was in a coma for weeks after the shooting, but survived. He later tried to file a claim to Quebec’s auto insurance board. In response to a question on the claim form asking, “Were you injured in this accident?” Magi wrote: “I suffered bad headache pain at the back of my head and neck. I had a hard time breathing, my chest was closing in on me and I had pain in my neck.”
His claim was rejected, with the insurance board concluding that “all of the injuries sustained in the accident are the direct result of the bullet wounds.” He sought review at the provincial insurance tribunal, the court of last resort in such matters, but that also failed. “In fact, the evidence clearly demonstrates that the injuries result from a fact completely separable from the use of a motor vehicle as a means of transport,” the two-member panel wrote.
In 2010, Magi was arrested on five firearms charges as part of an organized crime operation by Montreal police. Court documents later showed that police acted on information his bodyguards were carrying illegal weapons. Magi avoided a criminal record by pleading guilty to improperly storing a restricted weapon, receiving an unconditional discharge.
For a period of time, it seemed as if everyone in Magi’s orbit was in danger.
Nick Rizzuto Jr. was murdered in a 2009 shooting within sight of the office he worked at with Magi. Ducarme Joseph, an enforcer for Magi, barely escaped a 2010 shooting at a clothing boutique that saw two others killed; Joseph was arrested the next day at Magi’s office. Richard Zarbatany, a former boxer, was a bodyguard and chauffeur for Magi when he was arrested in 2011 for impaired driving; he alleged police were harassing him, looking for a reason to throw him in jail.
Magi’s wife, Rita Biasini, barely escaped death in 2011 when a gunman opened fire on her car at 8:40 a.m. in a residential neighbourhood. She sped away and hid at a police station. By that point, according to one news report, Magi was travelling in an armoured car.
Thursday’s shooting, as with the past attempts on the life of Magi and his wife, came in broad daylight. A Montreal police spokesperson said they’re looking for witnesses, and will review security camera footage from the area. Nobody who has attempted to kill Magi in the past has ever been found.
— With files from Adrian Humphreys and Graeme Hamilton