Organized crime figure slain in daylight shooting in Montreal's West Island

Police descended on a parking lot in Dorval, Que., on Monday, where Francesco Del Balso was shot and killed.  (Pascal Robidas/Radio-Canada - image credit)
Police descended on a parking lot in Dorval, Que., on Monday, where Francesco Del Balso was shot and killed. (Pascal Robidas/Radio-Canada - image credit)

A high-profile member of organized crime in Montreal was shot and killed Monday afternoon, sources confirmed to Radio-Canada.

Francesco Del Balso was shot near the corner of Deacon Street and St-Régis Boulevard in Dorval in Montreal's West Island.

Charbonneau commission
Charbonneau commission

Montreal police were on the scene and reported a shooting with a deceased victim.

Del Balso was arrested as part of the Operation Colisée sweep of the Montreal Mafia in 2006. He was convicted of gangsterism and conspiracy to import cocaine.

He was released in 2016, then ordered back into prison over concerns for his safety. Parole board documents at the time described him as "next on an execution list." Del Balso was released again in 2018.

He was arrested in September 2022 by police in Laval, Que., in connection to threats and extortion against the leaders of a local religious community.

Last March, the Sûreté du Québec searched his home along with the homes of three influential members of the Hells Angels as part of an investigation into drug trafficking.

A week before that search, he had been questioned by provincial police investigators when trying to leave for Italy. He was released, but his passport was seized.

Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press
Christinne Muschi/The Canadian Press

The shooting follows two other high profile attacks this year.

In March, Leonardo Rizzuto, who allegedly took over from his father Vito Rizzuto as a Montreal Mafia leader, was shot at in Laval, Que. The car he was driving was hit with multiple bullets. Rizzuto survived with injuries.

On May 16, Claudia Iacona, the daughter-in-law of Montreal Mafia member Moreno Gallo, was killed in a targeted shooting in the parking lot of her beauty salon in the Côte-des-Neiges–Notre-Dame-de-Grâce borough.

Mafia power imbalance

Antonio Nicaso is the author of more than 40 books on organized crime, and he teaches the subject at Queen's University. He said Del Balso once managed gambling for the Rizzuto crime family.

"He was a very powerful mobster," said Nicaso.

Nicaso said Del Balso specialized in illegal betting activities, but his efforts to carve out his own space in the field of gambling and extortion led to a clash with the Rizzuto clan.

Challenging the family's senior management led to retaliation, and Del Balso tried to flee the country because he was being hunted, said Nicaso. The conflict escalated.

"We learned he was a suspect in the attempted murder of Leonardo Rizzuto — he had some important connections to the Hells Angels," said Nicaso.

WATCH| Francesco Del Balso's role in mafia explained by expert:

When there is violence like this, it shows a power imbalance among criminal organizations while bringing their activities into the spotlight, he said.

However, the mafia, or mafia-like organizations, are more powerful when they don't use violence because that creates a better environment for them to bribe and corrupt people — infiltrating organizations with the goal of making money, Nicaso explained.

"When there is a war, it's always painful for everyone and it's not the best strategy in place to conduct criminal activities," said Nicaso.

Del Balso's murder confirms the mafia war in Montreal is "not yet over," said Nicaso, but it's not clear how far the battle will extend.