Thieves who took $20 million in gold, other items didn’t breach security at Pearson Airport in Mississauga

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Published April 21, 2023 at 1:45 pm

Gold bars Pearson Airport in Mississauga heist
Brinks is suing Air Canada for the loss of $20 million in gold stolen earlier this year from Pearson Airport in Mississauga.

The thieves who made off with $20 million in gold and other valuables from a cargo facility at Pearson Airport in Mississauga this week did not do so by gaining access to the airport, Pearson officials say.

In what may be the largest heist in Canadian history, those responsible for the massive theft on Monday evening (April 17) did not penetrate the “primary security line” at Canada’s largest and busiest airport, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which runs Pearson, said in a statement Thursday night.

“The GTAA wishes to clarify that thieves accessed the public side of a warehouse that is leased to a third party, outside of our primary security line,” the GTAA’s statement reads. “This did not involve access to Toronto Pearson itself and did not pose a threat to passengers or GTAA staff.”

Meanwhile, Peel Regional Police aren’t saying much at all about the heist, which targeted a large container of gold and valuables that had just arrived at Pearson on board a Monday evening flight.

While police wouldn’t say what airline was involved, or where the flight arrived from, reports indicate it was an Air Canada flight and that cargo workers with that carrier handled the precious shipping container.

Peel police, who have a criminal investigation division at Pearson, say they’re working on the case alongside the RCMP.

At a brief news conference held at Pearson on Thursday evening, Peel police Insp. Stephen Duivesteyn said investigators began probing the mysterious theft right away on Monday night, but kept things quiet for three days while they pursued all possible angles and leads.

Duivesteyn described the “high-value container” as being about five to six square feet in size and filled with gold and other unspecified valuables.

He didn’t offer any details on how the container may have been taken from the cargo facility by the thieves, nor did he say who police consider to be possible suspects.

What is known is that shortly after the plane landed on Monday evening, the cargo was removed from the aircraft and taken to the nearby cargo warehouse, as per standard procedure.

It’s not uncommon for gold to be shipped via Pearson Airport, as some 70 per cent of the gold mined in Canada in 2021 was from Ontario and Quebec, according to Natural Resources Canada (NRC).

NRC also notes that Canadian mines produced 223 tonnes of gold in 2021, ranking Canada as the fourth-largest global producer behind China (370 tonnes), Australia (330 tonnes) and Russia (300 tonnes).

The U.S. ranked fifth (180 tonnes).

In 2021, 47 per cent of Canada’s gold exports went to the United Kingdom.

The $20 million in gold and other valuables taken from Pearson on Monday evening make the massive heist one of the biggest, if not largest in Canadian history.

Just over a decade ago, 3,000 tonnes of Canadian maple syrup, valued at $18.7 million, was stolen from a storage facility in Quebec. That’s become known as the Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist.

And back in September 1952, $215,000 in gold bullion (worth $2.3 million today) was stolen from what was then known as Malton Airport, which later became Pearson.

It was the largest gold robbery in the country’s history at the time. The gold was headed for Montreal.

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