Canada’s top court has imposed a $9.1-million CDN fine on a man behind one of the country’s stickiest crimes – the theft of 3,000 tonnes of maple syrup.
The so-called Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist saw the loss of nearly $18 million worth of syrup from the country’s reserves by a group of thieves.
The court ordered Richard Vallières, a “major player” in the scheme, to pay a penalty or face six years in prison.
Vallières was found guilty in 2016 of fraud, trafficking, and theft. He is serving an eight-year prison sentence.
At trial, Vallières said he sold the syrup for $10 million, and made a personal profit of around $1 million.
In a unanimous decision on Thursday, the Supreme Court ruled that Vallières should pay a penalty equal to the value of the stolen goods within a decade. The ruling overturns a decision by the Quebec Court of Appeal to reduce his fine to just $1 million – equivalent to what Vallières says he pocketed.
The Quebec Maple Syrup Producers – the so-called OPEC of maple syrup – holds an emergency reserve of the product to help meet global supply in years of poor harvests. The Canadian province produces almost three-quarters of the world’s maple syrup.
Between 2011 and 2012, Vallières and the group of thieves targeted a central Quebec warehouse where the product is stockpiled, often replacing the syrup in the barrels with water.
The thieves went on to distribute the stolen syrup throughout Canada and the U.S.
The theft was discovered in 2012 during a routine survey when an inspector climbed on a stack of maple syrup barrels – which typically weigh some 270 kilograms (595 lbs) – and one nearly tipped over. It was empty.