Police say five suspects arrested, three more being sought over theft of 6,600 gold bars at Toronto airport last year.

Police in Canada have arrested multiple people accused of stealing thousands of gold bars worth more than 20 million Canadian dollars ($14m), in what authorities say was the largest gold heist in the country’s history.

Last year’s theft at a Toronto Pearson International Airport facility was orchestrated by a “well-organised group of criminals”, Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah told reporters on Wednesday.

“This particular theft has become the largest gold theft in Canadian history, and it’s one of the largest, for that matter, in North America.”

The shipment of 6,600 gold bars weighed 400kg (882 pounds) and came from a refinery in Switzerland. That cargo, along with 2.5 million Canadian dollars ($1.8m) in foreign bank notes, was stolen from an Air Canada facility on April 17, 2023.

On Wednesday, police named nine suspects in the heist and detailed the charges they face.

Five of the suspects were arrested in Canada and released on bail pending trial, police said.

One additional suspect, originally from Brampton, Ontario, was arrested in the state of Pennsylvania after being discovered with dozens of illegal firearms. That person remains in custody in the United States.

Canada-wide arrest warrants have been issued for the remaining three suspects.

Police hold a news conference in Ontario, Canada, about a 2023 gold heist at Toronto Pearson International Airport
Chief of Peel Regional Police Nishan Duraiappah speaks in front of the truck used for the heist, at a news conference in Brampton, Ontario, April 17 [Carlos Osorio/Reuters]

The accused include two Air Canada employees and a jewellery store owner, as well as the alleged getaway driver.

According to authorities, the stolen gold was initially offloaded from a plane and then securely stored in a cargo holding facility.

Two and a half hours later, a man driving a truck arrived at the loading dock with a fraudulent air waybill to claim the cargo. The document he used to track the international shipments had been printed at the Air Canada cargo facility.

In the aftermath of Wednesday’s announcement, Air Canada said it had suspended one cargo division employee charged in the theft. The other, who worked in the same department at the time of the heist, had left the airline before the charges were announced.

“As this is now before the courts, we are limited in our ability to comment further,” Air Canada said in a statement.

Authorities said they believe some of the suspects were also involved in illegal firearms trafficking.

Police added that they seized 430,000 Canadian dollars ($312,000) believed to be profits from the sale of the gold, and six “crudely made” gold bracelets worth an estimated $89,000 Canadian dollars ($65,000).

They are still searching for the rest of the gold.

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