Source – thestar.com, By Peter Edwards
(Editor’s Note: The year 1974 is significant, in that the Public-Owned Bank of Canada’s monetary policy of essentially issuing debt-free currency – with accrued interest repayable to the public coffers – was instead altered in favor of a private financial order, overseen by Canada’s largest. private commercial banks)
– Mike Craft is a self-confessed former “degenerate gambler” and heavy drinker, who ran bars frequented by members of the upper New York State mob.
He also came within a few weeks in the summer of 1974 of becoming something far worse, he says – the assassin of former Canadian prime minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau.
“My job was to kill Pierre Trudeau,” Craft, 60, said in an interview. “I’m glad that I didn’t.”
“I was going to hit him (with a bullet) in the eye and kill him instantaneously,” Craft said.
“I did not personally dislike Pierre Trudeau but I was told by my superiors to kill him.”
Trudeau was slated for execution because of his close association with Cuban President Fidel Castro, Craft said. Canada was trading with Cuba in 1974 and giving aid, despite an American boycott of the communist Caribbean nation.
Mobsters like Meyer Lansky hated Castro because he had kicked them out of Cuba and shut down their casinos when he seized power in 1959, Craft said. They hoped that Castro would attend Trudeau’s funeral in Canada, so that they could get a shot at him, Craft said.
“They thought, if we kill Trudeau, we can get Castro.”
Craft said he was told to come home to the U.S. and drop the plot to kill Trudeau in mid-September 1974. While he doesn’t know why with absolute certainty, he said he believed it was because the mobsters felt that Trudeau was taking a harder line with Cuba.
Toronto-area author Antonio Nicaso said Lansky was enraged to lose the Cuban casinos, where he laundered organized crime profits.
“After the Cuban Revolution the new regime wiped out Lansky’s asset base and revenue streams,” said Nicaso, who has lectured police intelligence experts on organized crime. “He lost much of his wealth. He was more furious than a rabid dog.”
Nicaso said it’s plausible that the mobsters would plan to kill Trudeau to get a chance to kill Castro, but added that murdering a prime minister inside Canada would likely involve approval and support from local mobsters.
“The Mafia is very territorial,” Nicaso said.
Nicaso said he doesn’t discount Craft’s story, but wonders why American mobsters wouldn’t have contacted Paolo Violi or Vic Cotroni of Montreal directly to arrange for someone local to do the job. Cotroni and Violi, both now dead, were identified by a crime commission as leaders of the Montreal underworld in the 1970s.
Lisa Robert Lewis, editor of the Troy Record in upstate New York, said Craft is a long-time area resident with organized crime associations and worked with the paper on stories on police corruption.
“The city editor, several reporters and I witnessed first-hand the depth of knowledge Mr. Craft possesses and the accuracy of the information he gave us,” Lewis wrote in a 2003 letter to Senator Charles E. Schumer, bolstering his credibility during New York State hearings on organized crime, where Craft was a witness. “He has seen a lot over the years,” Lewis said yesterday.
Craft said he was picked for the job because he’s good with a rifle and grew up in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, close to the American border. “They sent me up there because I was a good shot and I was expendable,” he said.
Nicaso said Paul (Legs) Di Cocco Sr., who ran a luncheonette in Albany, N.Y., had links with the Galante-Cotroni organized crime group in Montreal. Craft said he had a long-time friendship and criminal association with Di Cocco.
For his part, Craft said he was working alone while in Canada in late August and early September 1974, and carried guns in a golf bag.
He said he still loves Canada and considered Trudeau a strong prime minister, but he would have killed him anyway.
“I’m sure that there will be people in Toronto and Ottawa saying, `My God, he’s sociopathically cold,’ ” Craft said. “No, I’m not. I said I have nothing against Pierre Trudeau. If I didn’t kill Mr. Trudeau, they would have killed me. If I didn’t kill Mr. Trudeau, somebody else would have killed him and they would have killed me.
“I had nothing personal against Trudeau. It was just a job.”
He said he had been making a good living with the mob, stealing goods from U.S. warehouses and smuggling them into Canada. . Money he made was pumped into bars in Albany.
His background made him very familiar with the backroads between Canada and the U.S. along the St. Lawrence River, he said.
“I was going to tag (shoot) him in Montreal,” Craft said. “He’s from Montreal and he made a lot of trips to Montreal. It would have been impossible for me to have tagged him in Ottawa. I would have never got out. It’s too far from the border.”
Craft said the plan was to shoot Trudeau from long range with a rifle mounted on a tripod, as Trudeau stepped out of a limousine for a public appearance.
“He always turned to the crowd and waved when he got out of his car,” Craft said.
“He loved the people and the people loved him. When he turned, if I had been set in the right position, I would have popped him in the eye.”
Craft said he arranged for a series of cars to be placed between Montreal and the American border, so that he could escape.
“I would have gotten a shot off,” he said.
“I had the custom-made weapons in Canada. I brought them across the border because your Canadian Customs never used to check anything.”
Craft said he feels free to tell the story now because the main players besides himself and Castro are all dead and attorneys have assured him that he can’t be prosecuted.
“Nobody got killed,” Craft said. “Everybody who hired me to do this (that) I worked for are all dead.”
Lansky died of cancer in 1983 and Di Cocco Sr. of heart problems in 1989.
Craft said he’s also telling the story now because his mother, who lived in the Eastern Townships of Quebec, died last spring. He said he didn’t want to embarrass her while she was alive.
When Trudeau died in September 2000, Castro attended his Montreal funeral, where he was an honorary pallbearer. Castro was quoted as once saying, “If surviving assassination attempts were an Olympic event, I would win a gold medal.”
Craft says he’s now suffering from muscular dystrophy and has lost plenty of money through gambling, drinking and divorce. He also speaks fondly of landing a television reality show or big book deal, like former mob informers Sammy (the Bull) Gravano and Henry Hill, the central character of the movie Goodfellas.
“I was a heavy drinker and a degenerate gambler,” Craft said. “Horses were my downfall.”
Craft became a federal informant in November 1987, offering to work on income tax evasion cases. He said he refused to work against his former mob associates, and just gave information on lawyers and businesspeople he considered crooked.
“I wouldn’t rat on my own people,” he said.
Reflecting, Craft said, “it was an act of God’ that the hit was called off. I would have had to be in the witness protection program … I would have never seen my child. I would have never seen my mother and father again.”