Friday, May 24, 2024

Police make arrests in ‘largest gold theft in Canadian history’

(Al Jazeera Media Network) Police in Canada have arrested multiple people accused of stealing thousands of gold bars worth more than $20 million CDN ($14 million US), in what authorities say was the largest gold heist in the country’s history.

Last year’s theft at a Toronto Pearson International Airport facility was orchestrated by a “well-organized group of criminals,” Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah told reporters on Wednesday.

“This particular theft has become the largest gold theft in Canadian history, and it’s one of the largest, for that matter, in North America.”

The shipment of 6,600 gold bars weighed 400 kilograms (882 pounds) and came from a refinery in Switzerland. That cargo, along with $2.5 million CDN in foreign bank notes, was stolen from an Air Canada facility on April 17, 2023.

On Wednesday, police named nine suspects in the heist and detailed the charges they face.

Five of the suspects were arrested in Canada and released on bail pending trial, police said.

One additional suspect, originally from Brampton, Ontario, was arrested in the state of Pennsylvania after being discovered with dozens of illegal firearms. That person remains in custody in the United States.

Canada-wide arrest warrants have been issued for the remaining three suspects.

The accused include two Air Canada employees and a jewelry store owner, as well as the alleged getaway driver.

According to authorities, the stolen gold was initially offloaded from a plane and then stored “securely” in a cargo holding facility.

Two-and-a-half hours later, a man driving a truck arrived at the loading dock with a fraudulent air waybill to claim the cargo. The document he used to track the international shipments had been printed at the Air Canada cargo facility.

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s announcement, Air Canada said it had suspended one cargo division employee charged in the theft. The other, who worked in the same department at the time of the heist, had left the airline before the charges were announced.

“As this is now before the courts, we are limited in our ability to comment further,” Air Canada said in a statement.

Authorities said they believe some of the suspects were also involved in illegal firearms trafficking.

Police added that they seized $430,000 CDN in cash believed to be profits from the sale of the gold, and six “crudely made” gold bracelets worth an estimated $89,000 CDN.

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