Toronto

Multiple arrests, 19 charges laid in $22.5M Pearson gold heist

Police say they have arrested multiple people and laid 19 charges in connection with what investigators are calling the largest gold heist in Canadian history.

Daring theft the single-largest gold heist in Canadian history, police investigator says

2 Air Canada employees played key roles in Pearson gold heist, police allege

1 month ago
Duration 2:45
Two men who worked for Air Canada allegedly played key roles in the theft of some $22.5 million in gold and cash from Toronto Pearson International Airport last spring, police say. CBC’s Ali Chiasson dives into the investigation that has led to multiple arrests and 19 charges.

Two men who worked for Air Canada allegedly played key roles in the theft of some $22.5 million in gold and cash from Toronto Pearson International Airport last spring, police say.

At a news conference Wednesday, Peel Regional Police said their joint investigation with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (ATF) has led to multiple arrests and 19 charges, as well as the interception of a "large quantity of firearms" destined for Canada.

"This story is a sensational one, and one which probably, we jokingly say, belongs in a Netflix series," Peel police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said.

"This one is a carefully planned and well-organized group of criminals from both inside and outside of airport facilities that orchestrated this theft," he added.

Lead investigator Det.-Sgt. Mike Mavity called the daring theft from an Air Canada cargo facility the single-largest gold heist in Canadian history. He said two men who worked for the airline were instrumental in pulling it off.

One of those employees, Parmpal Sidhu, a 54-year-old man from Brampton, Ont., who worked in the warehouse, has been arrested and charged with theft over $5,000 and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence. Meanwhile, a Canada-wide arrest warrant has been issued for Simran Preet Panesar, 31, also from Brampton. Mavity said Panesar worked as a manager and led police on "a tour" of the cargo facility after the theft, then resigned from Air Canada last summer.

"They needed people inside Air Canada to facilitate this theft," Mavity said.

WATCH | Police outline how the heist happened: 

How thieves stole $22.5M in gold, cash from Pearson airport

1 month ago
Duration 2:11
Police have arrested multiple people and laid 19 charges in relation to a multimillion-dollar gold heist at Pearson airport last year. Peel police Det.-Sgt. Mike Mavity said the suspect gained access to an Air Canada storage facility using an airway bill — a document typically issued by a carrier with details on the shipment — for a shipment of seafood picked up a day prior.

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick confirmed two of the individuals identified by the police did work for Air Canada in the cargo division at the time of the heist.

"One left the company prior to the arrests announced today and the second has been suspended," he said. "As this is now before the courts, we are limited in our ability to comment further."

Brink's Canada, the cash handling company that was supposed to transport the gold and currency the evening it arrived at Pearson, has sued Air Canada for the money lost in the heist.  Air Canada has denied any improper conduct or responsibility for the theft in its statement of defence and rejected all allegations in the Brink's lawsuit.

The 400 kilograms of pure gold, worth roughly $20 million CAD, and about $2.5 million in various foreign currencies were stolen from the cargo compound on the evening of April 17, 2023, shortly after arriving on a flight from Zurich.

A man driving a five-tonne delivery truck approached the compound and gained entry to the warehouse by presenting a legitimate airway bill — a document typically issued by a carrier with details on a shipment. The gold and cash was then loaded onto the truck and the driver exited the compound. 

Police later discovered that the airway bill was a duplicate of a document used for a shipment of seafood delivered a day prior, Mavity said. It was printed within the Air Canada facility, he added.

Using security video assembled from businesses and other sources, police pieced together some of the driver's subsequent route before losing track of the truck in north Milton, Mavity said.

A sign for Toronto Pearson International Airport is pictured in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday, April 20, 2023.
Police had previously said little about their investigation into the theft of roughly $22.5 million in gold and cash from Pearson airport last April. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press)

Investigators eventually identified the driver as Durante King-Mclean, 25, according to Mavity. 

King-Mclean is currently in police custody in the U.S. after he was arrested during a September traffic stop in rural Pennsylvania, Mavity said. Officers found 65 firearms in his rental car, including two that had been modified to be fully automatic and five untraceable "ghost guns" with no serial numbers, Peel police said in a news release about the arrests.

Mavity and the ATF allege the guns were bound for Canada.

Another man who police say had a role in the Pearson heist, 35-year-old Prasath Paramalingam, is also wanted by U.S. authorities. Court documents show that prosecutors in Pennsylvania say that he provided money King-Mclean used to purchase the firearms.

"We are alleging that some individuals who participated in this gold theft are also involved in aspects of firearms trafficking," Mavity told reporters.

Paramalingam was charged by Peel police with accessory after the fact of an indictable offence. He was also indicted by a U.S. grand jury on charges of firearms trafficking, aiding and abetting and conspiracy.

Peel police have issued an arrest warrant for King-Mclean, who is wanted in Ontario for theft over $5,000 and the possession of proceeds of a crime.

WATCH | Airport heist linked to firearms trafficking in GTA: 

Recovery of guns in connection to airport heist ‘saved lives’: Peel police chief

1 month ago
Duration 1:14
Police say a task force investigating a multimillion-dollar gold heist at Pearson airport last year has confiscated at least 65 firearms intended for import into Canada in connection with the case. Peel police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said the $22.5M investigation has ramifications for community safety.

Over the last year, the task force executed 37 search warrants related to the heist investigation, Mavity said. They turned up $430,000 in cash, six pure gold bracelets worth about $89,000, as well as smelting pots, casts and moulds.

"We believe the gold has been melted down and reconstituted into local and international markets," Mavity said.

Investigators also found two so-called debt lists, which are most commonly associated with drug trafficking investigations. One of the lists amounts to $10.23 million, while the other totals $9.94 million, according to Mavity.

"We believe these lists actually show where the money was distributed when the gold was sold by the suspects," he said, adding they contained line items for trips, basic supplies and personal items.

The other men arrested and charged in the case include:

  • Amit Jalota, 40, from Oakville, Ont. Jalota was charged with two counts of possession of property obtained by crime, theft over $5,000 and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.
  • Ammad Chaudhary, 43, from Georgetown, Ont. Chaudhary was charged with accessory after the fact of an indictable offence.
  • Ali Raza, 37, from Toronto. Raza, a jewellery store owner, was charged with possession of property obtained by crime.

All of the men allegedly involved in the theft who were arrested in Ontario were released on bail with conditions.

Meanwhile, Canada-wide arrest warrants have also been issued for:

  • Archit Grover, 36, from Brampton. Grover is wanted for theft over $5,000 and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence. He is also wanted in the U.S. for a firearms trafficking-related offence, Peel police said.
  • Arsalan Chaudhary, 32, from Mississauga. Chaudhary is wanted for theft over $5,000, possession of property obtained by crime and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Lucas Powers

Senior Writer

Lucas Powers is a Toronto-based reporter and writer. He's reported for CBC News from across Canada. Have a story to tell? Email lucas.powers[at]cbc.ca any time.

With files from Steven D'Souza and The Canadian Press