OTTAWA — Early Monday evening, a special container, about five to six square feet, was unloaded from an airplane at Toronto’s international airport. Inside it was more than 20 million Canadian dollars, about $14.8 million, in gold and other valuables. It was swiftly moved into a secure cargo holding facility.
Then, like many a suitcase, it vanished.
Announcing the theft on Thursday, Inspector Stephen Duivesteyn of the Peel Regional Police, the force that patrols Toronto Pearson Airport, offered few details about how the high-value container had disappeared beyond perhaps the obvious: by “illegal means.”
The investigators gave so little information apparently because the theft remained a mystery to them.
“We are three days in, so our investigators have their eyes open to all avenues,” Inspector Duivesteyn told reporters in Mississauga, Ontario, where the airport is. “We are looking at all angles of how this item was stolen.”
While he called such thefts “very rare,” he declined to say who had shipped the container, where the flight with the container had originated or which airline or cargo company had flown it into the airport. He also declined to disclose its weight.
“For the public worried about flying out, there should be no concern,” Inspector Duivesteyn said. “We do not consider this a public safety matter.”
No arrests have been made, nor did the police name any suspects, although Inspector Duivesteyn did not rule out the possibility that organized crime was involved. It is also unclear to the police if the cargo or the thieves are even still in the country.
It is not the first time that gold has vanished at a Canadian airport.
In 1952, six of 10 boxes of gold bullion traveling on a plane from Toronto’s airport had vanished by the time the plane landed in Montreal. The disappearance of the gold, which had a value equivalent to 2.4 million Canadian dollars in today’s figures, was never solved.
And in 1974, five unrefined gold bars, worth 4.6 million Canadian dollars in current money and destined for the Royal Canadian Mint, were stolen from a lockup in Ottawa’s airport after a guard was threatened with guns and handcuffed to a pipe. That theft was ultimately attributed to a group known as the Stopwatch Gang that became famous for timing and planning its heists efficiently.
The Peel police are investigating the latest gold robbery with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Inspector Duivesteyn vowed that it would not become an unsolved case, in contrast to the previous gold theft at the airport.
“This will take the best of my investigators,” he said.
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