Toronto airport gold heist: Here’s what we know so far
The Royal Canadian Mounted Police are investigating the brazen robbery of $15 million worth of gold and valuables at Toronto Pearson Airport (YYZ) earlier this week.
The heist, which took place April 17, saw thieves intercept gold and other valuables stored in containers once they were offloaded from an aircraft. As Canada’s biggest airport, close to half of the country’s air cargo goes through YYZ.
Here’s what we know about the robbery so far.
How did the heist happen?
“An aircraft arrived here at the airport in the early evening — as per normal procedure, the aircraft was unloaded and cargo was transported from the aircraft to a holding cargo facility,” Peel Regional Police inspector Stephen Duivesteyn said Thursday evening.
“What I can say is that the container [had] a high-value shipment,” he added. “It did contain gold but was not exclusive to gold and contained other items of monetary value.”
When pressed on more details of the crime, the inspector did not want to label it a “professional” robbery just yet, despite the assumed sophistication which would likely be needed for such an interception. He also didn’t want to give away the intended route or destination of the valuables.
“We’re three days in, so our investigators have their eyes open to all avenues,” he said.
What was the value of the stolen goods?
Values had initially ranged from tens of millions to hundreds of millions of dollars. The latest official figures, however, estimated the amount of gold stolen to be about 1.6 metric tons (about 3,527 pounds), worth a total value of $15 million, according to reports.
The robbery could turn out to be one of the biggest in Canadian history. It comes little more than a decade after Richard Vallières masterminded the heist of 3,000 metric tons (6,613,868 pounds) of maple syrup valued at $13.8 million from Quebec’s strategic reserve between 2011 and 2012.
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The police have revealed that the container stolen in this week’s robbery measured about 5 square feet in size and held gold as well as other “high value” items, which are believed to include banknotes.
What airline was involved?
There is still no official word on which airline was carrying the cargo. However, The Toronto Sun received confidential documents that reportedly show it was an Air Canada plane that had been tasked with shipping the gold.
Responding to a request for comment from the newspaper, the airline reportedly responded: “Hello, we have no information to provide. Please contact the Peel Police.”
Who owned the gold stolen?
The Toronto Sun claims to have received confidential memos concerning the robbery and believes that “gold and banknotes” were being transported as part of an “intra-bank transaction.” According to the newspaper, the bank could be Toronto-Dominion, otherwise known as TD — one of the biggest in North America, with a net value of tens of billions of dollars.
It also wouldn’t be unusual, at least not in Canada, to transport this amount of gold because gold is the country’s most valuable mined commodity.
In 2021 alone, Canadian mines in 10 provinces and territories accounted for 223 metric tons (491,631 pounds) of gold, making it the world’s fourth-largest producer.
Has anything like this happened before?
While officials have described the incident as “isolated” and “rare,” it’s not the first time an airport in the wider Toronto area has been the victim of a robbery.
In late 1952, criminals pulled off a robbery of gold bullion (worth $1.8 million in today’s money) from Malton Airport (YZ), which would later become Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ).
The biggest gold heist in the country at that time, it saw six wooden boxes of gold “vanish” from a cargo area before being loaded on a plane. Nobody was ever convicted for the 1952 robbery, which has perplexed officials for over half a century.
Gold mines across Canada have historically used the major airports to transport bullion, even domestically. In 1974, five gold bars bound for the Royal Canadian Mint were stolen at Ottawa International Airport (YOW) when armed thieves handcuffed a security official to a pipe.
Known as the Stopwatch Gang, the culprits of the Ottawa heist were later apprehended before escaping from prison in 1979.
Concerning this latest mystery, local law enforcement and the Royal Canadian Mounted Police will continue to piece together evidence and work out, in the words of one Toronto Sun reporter, whether this was an “Ocean’s 11 caper or an inside job.”
We’ll bring you updates when we have them.