Mainstream News Outlets and the Temptation of Drive-by Smears

di Joe Volpe del 18 February 2020

TORONTO - I grew up reading the Globe and Mail and the Corriere Canadese. The former has not always been kind to newer Canadians, especially to Italian Canadians. Its critiques often fed negative stereotypes, further marginalizing emerging communities and retarding the process of integration vital to the strength of the Canadian whole.

The fact that its journalist/writers/editors typically displayed writing skills a cut above those of their competitors (the Daily Star, the Telegram, then the Sun and the National Post) did not make the stinging rebuke of their targeted “investigative journalism” more palatable for those who were essentially “roadkill” in its pursuit of competitive advantage over rival Press agencies.

It is 2020 and “roadkill” has graduated to “collateral damage”. On February 13, the Globe’s Report on Businessled with a threepage story, detailing the debateable, business practices of the principals of a relatively small player in the construction sector, Bondfield Construction. It is/was, however, an active Italian Canadian private sector organization capable of securing public infrastructure contracts.

It is public knowledge that Bondfield sought and received court protection in April 2019. Canada’s self-proclaimed National Newspaper had been reporting on its performance on publicly funded projects, as a matter of course, until its reporting attracted a defamation lawsuit from Bondfield (2018-2019) for $125 million. Like the bankruptcy proceedings, that matter is still before the courts. In other words, the February 13 story is not “breaking news”.

Nonetheless, a senior staff member, speaking on background, acknowledged that the Globehad been working on it for months and would have had its team of assigned writers, editors and investigative journalists “run everything by the lawyers” before the decision was made to publish. Ok. What were they researching? A December 19, 2019 story by Daily Commercial News under the byline of Construct Connect, reported that some $80 million of allegedly phony invoices had been uncovered by Court-appointed monitor, Ernst Young LLP.

The Globe’s weaving of the story from that point recounts a web of obfuscation and intrigue with alleged criminal elements from New York’s Jewish money laundering syndicates, Albania’s drug smuggling operatives and Toronto’s Italian construction and finance sectors. As the idiot politician from an obscure country in the Southern half of the Western Hemisphere maintained last week, criminality is in the Italian DNA.

Stuff of Hollywood: drugs, fast women, faster expensive cars, “rocking and rolling”, money to burn and “corruptible institutions” at the ready. And the tale “appears” legitimate as more and more people are caught up in a seemingly seedy web of deceit. Throw “Italians” into the mix and the product is a steamy, sex-dominated product whose allure is difficult to resist.

The salacious aspect of that recounting, is rendered more believable by the presence of the forensic work of Ernst Young LLP, and other “verifying agencies” mentioned in the story: the USA Department of Justice, the Financial Transactions and Reports Centre of Canada (FINTRAC) and the RCMP.

It has never been in the DNA of the Corriere Canadese – ever and especially under the current ownership – to excuse illegal or even “unethical” behaviour. Bondfield has its own army of lawyers and accountants to protect its interests, its brand and the reputation of its principals.

So does IC Savings, the other “Italian Canadian” corporation - and the only Canadian financial institution, at least in the GTA - cited in the Globestory. As noted above, the Globe is already in court with Bondfield.

The allegations, not yet tested much less proven in Court, documented in the Globe story suggest that IC Savings may be key to the movement and laundering of funds which origins are not clearly legitimate.

Typically such monies are trace to activities related to drug or human smuggling or may at the very least be of such sensitive nature that depositors prefer to make deposits in cash to hide their source.

Who knows? Nothing has yet to be proven in a court of law. But in the Court of public opinion – perception - one is guilty until proven innocent.

The Globe article provides snapshots of many deposits: each of them in the amount of $9,000 (in stacks of $20 bills according to the Globe, all of them from one ICS branch in Vaughan). The reader cannot help but infer the suggestion that depositors might be knowingly engaged in something untoward; worse, that IC Savings might be an enabler either by design or by a casual approach to reporting, contrary to what is required by law (domestic and international), to FINTRAC.

“I refuse to speculate as to why the Globe considered it relevant to bring IC Savings into the picture in this fashion”, said Fausto Gaudio, CEO at IC Savings. “We are required to report deposits - irrespective of source – and we have never been in non-compliance”.

Neither IC Savings nor, for that matter, FINTRAC (responsible for investigating legitimacy of deposits of financial institutions), can comment on the accuracy of questions related to the activities of account holders.

“We’re stuck between a rock and the hard place,” complained Gaudio, “if we comment [on our depositors], we’ll be in violation of the Act requiring us to uphold privacy of account holders, if we don’t, we risk having allegations – unfounded, until the courts decide otherwise – potentially damage our corporate reputation.”

Sam Ciccolini, Chair of IC Savings, rejects the allegations adamantly. “We have a robust protocol which our staff respects to the [maximum] on procedures to be observed”, he says, “we report to FINTRAC, as required. It is then up to them to follow up.”

Our enterprise is honest to a fault, he added, “I tell my 140 workers and agents that if they ever feel they need to lie for Ciccolini, they should look for another job”. The RCMP has come [into IC Savings], conducted its “due diligence” and given us a “clean bill of health”.

“Over the last twenty years, IC Savings has only had a pristine reputation,” claimed Gaudio.

I wondered why the Globe editors chose not to mention that former Chief Justice the Hon. Frank Iacobucci serves on their Board.

Note to readers: Corriere does not have a relationship that is not arms-length with any of the entities or people mentioned above. It reached out to Justice Iacobucci but at time of going to print had not received a response.


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