$20M Pearson Airport gold heist in Mississauga could cost cops $10M to solve

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Published July 10, 2024 at 1:28 pm

Pearson gold heist in Mississauga could cost $10M to investigate.
A video still shows what police say is the container of gold and cash being loaded onto the getaway truck at Air Canada cargo warehouse at Pearson Airport.

Last year’s brazen theft of some $20 million in gold bars from Pearson Airport in Mississauga — the largest such heist in Canadian history — has cost Peel cops $5.3 million so far to investigate, and the tab could climb to as high as $10 million.

That was one of several new pieces of information about the high-profile case made public at the Peel Police Services Board’s most recent meeting, held June 21.

The board, a civilian body that governs Peel Regional Police, also heard several other details from lead investigators, including their belief that “a significant portion of the gold left to foreign markets” in countries that include India and Dubai “very soon after” the April 17, 2023 theft.

On that evening, around the dinner hour, a five-tonne getaway truck took a load of $23 million in gold and cash from an Air Canada cargo facility and then headed via Highway 401 for somewhere north of Milton, about 40 kilometres to the west of Pearson.

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Video capture shows what police say was the container of gold and cash being loaded onto a truck at an Air Canada cargo facility at Pearson Airport. After leaving with the valuable load, the driver took Highway 401 to Milton before eventually disappearing somewhere north of there. (Photo: Peel Regional Police YouTube)

The gold and cash had arrived just a couple of hours earlier on an Air Canada flight from Zurich, Switzerland.

The large white truck, with some 6,600 gold bars and just over $2 million in cash on board, was tracked after the fact by police using video surveillance from numerous businesses between the airport and Milton.

It was spotted by investigators leaving Highway 401 and travelling north into Milton, where it then disappeared and wasn’t seen on any other surveillance camera footage.

Peel police Det. Sgt. Mike Mavity, lead investigator on the case, and Det. Gord Oakes told board members during their June 21 presentation they “have ideas where the truck went,” but are still following up on that information.

Peel Regional Police Det. Sgt. Mike Mavity (left) updates the Peel Police Services Board on the investigation. Peel police Chief Nishan Duraiappah (right) also provided the board with information.

Following up on numerous leads has been, and continues to be, a major part of the massive investigation that has greatly strained Peel police resources as it has reached into the U.S. and across the globe. Most of the suspects charged in the case have already appeared in Brampton court and were released pending next court appearances.

Several others have yet to be tracked down by Peel cops in connection with the heist.

In the first year of the probe, 28,096 regular officer hours and 9,500 overtime hours were dedicated to the case, the lead investigators told board members. That includes the efforts of 20 officers assigned to the file and additional resources pulled, as needed, from other areas of the department.

Alan Boughton, a member of the police board, did the math and suggested the cost of the investigation to date is in the neighbourhood of $5.29 million, and “the project is not even near the end.”

It’s “an incredible investment that’s being made to catch these (alleged) bad guys,” he continued, adding as they look at the police budget, “… a crime like this could be $10 million as a cost to Peel by the time it’s all said and done.”

The five-tonne truck used to steal $20 million in gold and $2.5 million in cash from Pearson Airport in Mississauga.

Peel police Deputy Chief Nick Milinovich agreed with that estimate.

“I don’t think people appreciate the amount of time and (financial) investment” that goes into many police investigations, he said, adding it’s “not uncommon for any investigation to surpass $1 million, or $2 million, $3 million, $4 million … the reality is that in order to respond in the way we have in this particular investigation and others that we have done, it requires resourcing and it isn’t cheap.”

Where did all the gold go?

Brampton Mayor Patrick Brown, also a member of the police board, asked the Peel investigators if they had traced the likely whereabouts of the gold bars in the hours, days and weeks following the historic heist.

“We believe a significant portion of the gold left to foreign markets very soon after the theft,” said Oakes. “That was quite a large quantity of it and we’ve been able to track a portion of the remaining stuff that people are using here within Canada to profit from.”

Mavity added “a very small quantity (of the gold) was melted” at a GTA jewelry shop in the immediate aftermath of the theft.

One of the men facing charges is the owner of a Toronto jewelry store.

As for the bulk of the precious goods, it has long since left Canada.

“We believe … a large portion has gone overseas to markets that are flush with gold — that would be Dubai or India — where you can take gold with serial numbers on it and they will still honour it and melt it down,” said Mavity. “That is our belief and we believe that happened very shortly after the (theft).”

Moving forward, the lead investigator said additional details about the case will be revealed to the public when appropriate and with respect to the judicial process.

“We recognize there’s a huge public interest in this and we are trying to balance the public interest with the impending prosecution (of suspects),” said Mavity.

The men charged earlier this spring by police in connection with the Pearson Airport gold heist. Two have yet to be arrested and are being sought by police.

To date, Peel police have identified and charged or issued warrants for nine people in connection with the case, which has continued to garner international headlines now 15 months since the precious cargo quickly disappeared from the Air Canada cargo warehouse.

Most of those charged this past April have already appeared in Brampton court and were released pending next court appearances.

Brampton’s Archit Grover, 36, who was being hunted by police on a Canada-wide warrant for his alleged role in the brazen theft, was arrested in May after arriving at Pearson on a flight from India.

Not yet brought back to Canada by Peel police to face charges are Simran Preet Panesar, 31, of Brampton, who has retained counsel and is believed to be in the U.K. or India, according to police, and Arsalan Chaudhary, 42, of no fixed address, who’s believed to be in Dubai.

Two men still being sought by police.

Image shows partial route Peel Regional Police say a five-tonne truck took toward Milton shortly after it collected the gold and cash from an Air Canada cargo warehouse at Pearson Airport in Mississauga. (All photos: Peel Regional Police)

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