Suspect used fraudulent document to steal $20M in gold during heist at Toronto airport: lawsuit

A gold heist took place at Toronto Pearson International Airport in Mississauga, Ont. on April 17, 2023.

Security company Brink’s has launched a lawsuit against Air Canada following the gold heist at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport last spring, alleging that the airline allowed an unidentified individual to walk away with $20 million in gold and millions in cash after presenting personnel with a fraudulent waybill.

The new allegations about the unsolved heist, which occurred at the airport on the evening of April 17, were found in a statement of claim filed by Brink’s with the Federal Court of Canada on Oct. 6.

In the company’s claim, Brink’s said shortly after the valuables landed at Pearson and the cargo was offloaded, an unknown person was able to gain access to the airline’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,” the statement of claim read.

Brink’s alleges that Air Canada accepted a fake waybill, a document prepared by the carrier that often contains details of the shipment, route, and charges. Brink’s claims that staff accepted the fraudulent document without “verifying its authenticity in any way,” allowing the suspect to walk out of the warehouse with gold bars, weighing a little over 400 kilograms, and about $US2 million in cash.

“Had AC made the necessary and appropriate inquiries in the circumstances, the unidentified individual’s ability to steal the cargo entrusted to its care would have been entirely avoided,” read the company’s claim.

The allegations against Air Canada have not been tested in court and the airline has not yet filed a statement of defence.

In an email sent to CP24.com on Wednesday, a spokesperson for Air Canada said they could not provide comment "as this matter is now before the courts." 

According to the court filing, Swiss bank Raiffeisen Schweiz and Valcambi, a precious metals refining company based in Switzerland, hired Brink’s to provide security and logistics services to transport the banknotes and gold from Zurich to Toronto.

Brink’s, the claim states, arranged to ship the items using the AC Secure program, which is said to provide “special handling for high-value cargo” at a higher cost than regular shipments.

The shipments were transported from Zurich to Toronto via flight AC881. Brink’s said the flight arrived shortly before 4 p.m. and the cargo was offloaded at approximately 4:20 p.m. before being sent to an Air Canada bonded warehouse at approximately 5:50 p.m.

About 40 minutes later, the claim states, the suspect walked into the warehouse and stole the goods.

The Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA) has previously confirmed that the suspect accessed the public side of a warehouse, which the GTAA said is outside of its “primary security line.”

The statement of claim alleges that Air Canada was “reckless” and “failed to enlist reasonable and appropriate security measures and protocols” to prevent the cargo from being stolen.

Brink’s said on April 27, it provided Air Canada with written notice of the loss the company sustained due to the theft and demanded full reimbursement for all losses and damages. Brink’s said it has not received a response from the airline.

In the statement of claim, the company is seeking reimbursement for the full value of the shipment plus special damages to be determined prior to trial.

To date, no arrests have been made in the heist and the valuables have not been recovered.

Peel Regional Police have said a theft of this magnitude is "rare,” although not unprecedented in Toronto.

The airport was the setting of a gold heist involving a Brink’s armoured car back in 1952, when about $215,000 worth of gold was taken, amounting to roughly $2.35 million today.

In that case, the gold was never recovered and the suspects were never caught.

-Reporting by CP24 Web Content Writer Codi Wilson