Canadian investigators have disclosed that a fraudulent airway bill, based on a genuine seafood shipment, was presented by a suspect during the alleged theft of 6,600 gold bars from an Air Canada cargo facility in Toronto last year.

The gold – weighing 400kg and worth some C$20 million ($14.5 million) – plus some C$2.5 million in foreign currency were inside a container flown to Toronto Pearson airport on an Air Canada flight.

Speaking at a Peel regional police briefing on 17 April, detective sergeant Mike Mavity said that five suspects had been arrested and four others are the subject of warrants. Some of these individuals are former Air Canada employees.

Nineteen charges have been laid, says Mavity, adding that the case has broadened from investigation of theft into activities such as firearms trafficking.

The gold had been ordered from a refinery in Zurich and the Air Canada flight carrying it arrived at Pearson at 15:56 on 17 April last year.

gold heist-c-Peel regional police

Source: Peel regional police

Police say the suspect arrived in a 5t truck and presented a false waybill to warehouse staff

Some two-and-a-half hours later, at 18:32, a suspect arrived at the carrier’s cargo facility in the truck, reversing it into the loading dock before approaching the warehouse with the fraudulent airway bill.

Mavity says the bill was duplicated from original document for a “legitimate shipment of seafood which was picked up the day before”.

“Once inside the warehouse the suspect provided it to an Air Canada cargo warehouse attendant,” he adds. “A short time later, a forklift arrived with the container of gold and currency and loaded it into the rear of the suspect’s truck.”

When representatives of Brink’s Canada went to pick up the shipment from the cargo facility at around 21:30, Air Canada employees tried to locate the container but realised it was missing. Police were contacted about 5h later.

gold heist-c-Peel regional police

Source: Peel regional police

Surveillance cameras capture the container of gold being loaded into the suspect’s truck

Mavity says that the subsequent investigation recovered items including C$430,000 in cash believed to have come from selling the gold, as well as equipment thought to have been used to reshape the metal.

The briefing took place in the presence of the truck used during the alleged theft.

Forensic examination helped identify the driver of the truck early in the inquiry. This individual was stopped in a rental vehicle in Pennsylvania in September 2023, and detained, and 65 illegal firearms were found in the vehicle.