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Peel police to announce arrests in Pearson airport gold heist | CBC News

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Peel Regional Police and the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau say they plan to announce arrests on Wednesday in the theft of roughly $20 million in gold and nearly $2 million US in cash from Toronto’s Pearson International Airport.

The announcement, to be made at 8:30 a.m. ET in Brampton, will come exactly one year after the incident.

CBC News will carry the announcement live.

In a news advisory, the law enforcement services said they would reveal “details and arrests made concerning the theft of gold and cash from Pearson International Airport” as part of Project 24K, a joint-task investigation into the high-value theft.

Peel Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah, Det-Sgt. Mike Mavity and Eric DeGree, special agent in charge of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau (ATF), are scheduled to speak.

Police have said little about the case in the last 12 months.

In response to recent questions from CBC News, police have said investigators are “working around the clock in order to locate, arrest and charge those responsible for this crime.”

Brink’s suing Air Canada over theft

Brink’s, a Miami-based security company, meanwhile, is suing Air Canada for allegedly letting a thief walk into an Air Canada facility at the airport and walk out with the gold bars and cash. 

In an email on Tuesday, Brink’s spokesperson Kaye Faris said: “We were alerted of the news of the announcement today, as well, and look forward to learning more from the Peel Police Department at their news conference tomorrow.”

According to court documents obtained by CBC News, on April 14, 2023, Brink’s was commissioned by two Swiss banks — Raiffeisen and Valcambi — to move more than 400 kilograms of gold, and $1,945,843 in US bills, from Zurich to Toronto.

At the time, the value of the gold was just over 13.2 million Swiss francs, or almost $20 million Canadian at current exchange rates.

The cargo was loaded on to flight AC881, which departed Zurich at 1:25 p.m. local time on April 17 and arrived safely at Pearson at 3:56 p.m., without incident.

The two cargo shipments — emblazoned with the words BANKNOTES and GOLDBARS — were offloaded from the plane about 20 minutes later and deposited at an Air Canada storage facility about an hour and a half after that.

That’s when things went awry, the lawsuit alleges.

“At approximately 18:32,” Brink’s alleges in the documents, “an unidentified individual gained access to AC’s cargo storage facilities. No security protocols or features were in place to monitor, restrict or otherwise regulate the unidentified individual’s access to the facilities.”

A sign for Toronto Pearson International Airport is pictured in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday, April 20, 2023. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press)

The unnamed individual handed over a waybill to Air Canada personnel. A waybill is a document that has all the details of the cargo including instructions as to what it contains and where it should go.

Brink’s says the waybill was a copy of one tied to an unrelated shipment. Brink’s says the airline took the waybill “without verifying its authenticity in any way.”

“Upon receipt of the fraudulent waybill, AC personnel released the shipments to the unidentified individual, following which the unidentified individual absconded with the cargo.”

Brink’s says Air Canada handled the cargo “negligently and carelessly” and was “reckless” for failing to follow through on appropriate security measures, despite charging higher shipping rates for its “secure service.” It says the airline failed to provide “storing facilities equipped with effective vaults and cages, constant CCTV surveillance and active human surveillance patrols.”

Brink’s says it reached out to Air Canada on April 27, 2023 to let the airline know it was demanding a full reimbursement of the costs it has sustained. Brink’s is pursuing the matter in Federal Court.

A drone's view of planes at gates.
Toronto’s Pearson International Airport is shown here. (Yan Theoret/CBC/Radio-Canada)

Air Canada has rejected allegations

In a Nov. 8, 2023 statement of defence, Air Canada rejected “each and every allegation” in the Brink’s suit, saying it fulfilled its carriage contracts and denying any improper or “careless” conduct.

The country’s largest airline says that Brink’s failed to note the value of the haul on the waybill — a document typically issued by a carrier with details of the shipment — and that if Brink’s did suffer losses, a multilateral treaty known as the Montreal Convention would cap Air Canada’s liability.

“Brink’s Switzerland Ltd. elected for its own reasons not to declare a value for carriage and to pay the standard rate for the AC Secure services product and, to Air Canada’s knowledge, elected not to insure these shipments,” the Air Canada filing reads, adding that Brink’s was “fully aware of the consequences.”

An ATF bureau spokesperson has told CBC News that the gold heist is related to an alleged weapons trafficking ring in the U.S.

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