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Nine people, including an airline worker, arrested in connection with $14.5 million gold heist

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It was a brazen theft: A year ago, thousands of gold bars and millions of dollars in bills were stolen from Toronto International Airport.

On Wednesday, Canadian authorities announced the arrest of nine people, including an Air Canada employee, on suspicion of stealing more than 20 million Canadian dollars (about 14.5 million U.S. dollars) in gold bars and 2.5 million Canadian dollars (about 1.8 million U.S. dollars) in banknotes. Disappeared from a warehouse at Toronto Pearson Airport in April 2023.

Arrest warrants have also been issued for three other people, including a manager at the airline.

“This story is very sensational,” Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said at a news conference Wednesday as he stood in front of a truck he said was used in the robbery of. “We joke that it belongs in a Netflix series.” The Peel Police Service handles law enforcement at Toronto’s airport.

Chief Duleapa said the gold was used in part to buy guns destined for Canada. The man who drove the truck involved in the gold theft was arrested in Pennsylvania in September when a police officer stopped the rental car he was driving for a traffic violation and discovered 65 guns, two of which were fully automatic. The man is accused of conspiring to illegally traffic firearms into Canada.

It was unclear whether the arrests and a separate investigation into gun trafficking by the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives revealed a broader theft conspiracy. ATF Special Agent Eric DeGree, who attended the news conference, said the agency contacted Peel police after finding the man’s name in a police information database.

Chief Duleapa said the gold theft was the largest in Canada and appeared to be very simple. The gold and cash arrived at Toronto Airport in a special container on an Air Canada flight from Switzerland on April 17, 2023, and were transferred to one of the airline’s warehouses.

The container contained 6,600 gold bars destined for a bank in Toronto, as well as banknotes destined for a currency exchange office.

About two hours later, a truck driven by the man arrested in Pennsylvania pulled up in front of the warehouse. Police said the man was carrying a waybill – a document usually issued by a carrier containing details of a shipment – which gave him access to the warehouse.

It was actually a copy of the waybill printed on an Air Canada printer for a shipment of seafood picked up the day before.

Containers of gold bars and banknotes were loaded onto trucks.

“They needed someone within Air Canada to assist with this theft,” Detective Sergeant Mike Mavity of Peel police told a news conference.

Video footage shows the truck traveling along Canada’s busiest highway before disappearing into a rural area west of the city. .

Early the next morning, Peel police were alerted when one of Brink’s armored vehicles arrived with actual consignments of gold and banknotes.

Police said Wednesday they believed the gold bars with serial numbers had been melted down and had seized the smelting pots. Police said the only gold seized were six bracelets made of pure gold worth approximately C$89,000. Among those arrested was the owner of a Toronto jewelry store.

At a news conference, police showed two handwritten lists they said detailed payments made to people involved in the thefts.

“This is a story about reverse alchemy,” said Nando Iannicca, the local government chairman. “This is how gold becomes a gun.”

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