Arrests made in $14.5 million gold heist, the largest ever in Canada


A year ago, a man drove a five-ton truck into Air Canada’s cargo facility at Toronto Pearson International Airport carrying a seafood consignment bill to claim a shipment. Instead, he made off with a container of 6,600 gold bars weighing about 880 pounds — and worth more than $14.5 million, or 20 million Canadian dollars.

Five people were arrested in Canada and one in the United States, investigators said Wednesday — in what they described as the “largest gold heist” in Canada — after a months-long investigation by national and international law enforcement authorities. Two Air Canada employees and a jewelry store owner from Toronto are among the suspects.

Besides the gold bars, the thieves also stole foreign currency worth $1.8 million, and investigators have linked the theft to a firearms trafficking operation.

“This was the largest gold heist in Canadian history. Reportedly, it’s the sixth largest in world crime history,” Nick Milinovich, the deputy chief of Peel Regional Police, said at a news conference.

The theft was discovered when the logistics company responsible for securing the shipment showed up at the airport to find the container missing.

Police dubbed the operation “24 karat” and combed 225 businesses and residences in the area for video footage and interviewed 50 people. The effort also included the Philadelphia Field Division of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, which arrested one person in the United States with 65 illegal firearms.

“We believe that [the thieves have] melted down the gold and then the profits they got from the gold, they used to help finance the firearms,” Detective Sergeant Mike Mavity said at the news conference.

Gold worth $65,000 — a fraction of the amount stolen — was recovered in the form of crudely fashioned bangles, along with Canadian currency worth $312, o00, police said. “This story is a sensational one, and one which we jokingly say belongs in a Netflix series or something greater than that,” Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said, adding that the investigation is ongoing.

Police said the criminal operation needed people at Air Canada to facilitate the high-profile heist. One of the suspects even led a police tour before investigators discovered his involvement, they said.

Air Canada, in a statement to Reuters, said it had suspended one employee from the cargo division charged in the theft, while the other employee had left the airline before police announced the charges.

The five people arrested and charged in Canada were released on bail, police said, while the individual arrested in the United States remains in custody. Warrants have been issued for three others in Canada, police added.

The airport gold theft topped another well-known heist in Canada in which more than 9,500 barrels of maple syrup were stolen and replaced with water. The value of the stolen liquid gold was about $13.3 million.

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