Top court rejects mobster Pierino Divito’s appeal to return to Canada

Canadian citizens jailed in foreign countries may have a bone to pick with Montreal mobster Pierino Divito.

A lawyer for the 76-year-old went to the Supreme Court of Canada to argue that the right to enter Canada is virtually absolute for citizens, including those incarcerated abroad, if a foreign jurisdiction consents to transfer them back home.

Civil liberties advocates picked up the cause, arguing that rejections should be rare. Under the Conservative government, Canada approved just 27 per cent of transfer requests in 2009-10, down from 100 per cent between 1999 and 2005, the Canadian Civil Liberties Association told the Supreme Court.

But Mr. Divito did not make for a sympathetic figure.

He was once convicted in an attempt to import $3-billion of cocaine into Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. His trail of offences stretches back to 1962. Four Canadian courts have found him to have been involved in organized crime. His criminal career was so prolific that he was extradited to Florida to serve seven years for cocaine trafficking while he was in the midst of an 18-year sentence in Canada. (Florida had no objection to sending him back to a Canadian prison.)

“It was a long shot,” University of Montreal law professor Paul Daly said.

The Supreme Court of Canada was unanimous in rejecting Mr. Divito’s claims on Thursday. It ruled that Canadian citizens have no automatic right to be transferred to a jail back home in Canada, even when foreign authorities don’t stand in their way.

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This content has been updated on August 23, 2014 at 12:19.