Business

Remember this spring's $20M gold heist at Pearson? Brink's is suing Air Canada to get its money back

Brink's security is suing Canada's biggest airline for more than $20 million for allegedly letting a thief walk into an Air Canada facility at Pearson airport and walk out with gold bars and cash.

Security company suing to get back the money it lost in the caper

A worker loads cargo into an Air Canada jet
More than $20 million in gold and $2 million in cash went missing after the precious cargo landed at Pearson airport from two Swiss banks. (Christinne Muschi/Bloomberg)

Brink's is suing Canada's biggest airline for roughly $20 million for allegedly letting a thief walk into an Air Canada facility at Toronto's Pearson airport and walk out with gold bars and cash. 

The Miami-based security company is suing Air Canada to get back the money it lost in the caper, which went down this past spring.

According to court documents obtained by CBC News, on April 14th Brink's was commissioned by two Swiss banks — Raiffeisen and Valcambi — to move more than 400 kilograms of gold, and $1,945,843 in U.S. 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 in the afternoon local time on April 17 and arrived safely at Pearson at 3:56 in the afternoon, without incident.

The two cargo shipments — adorned 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.

'No security protocols were in place'

"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."

The unnamed individual handed over a waybill to Air Canada personnel — 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."

WATCH | The gold heist: 

$20M in gold, other valuables stolen from Toronto airport

10 months ago
Duration 2:34
Police are investigating after someone made off with gold and other high-value goods worth an estimated value of $20-million from a cargo area at Pearson airport in Toronto.

A police investigation is ongoing, but neither the gold nor the cash has been seen since, and no arrests have been made.

According to Air Canada's website, "all valuable shipments are assessed a flat valuable handling fee" in addition to a "valuation charge that is calculated as a percentage of the declared value for air transport."

Cargo handled 'carelessly': Brink's

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 to let the airline know it was demanding a full reimbursement of the costs it has sustained, but as of Oct. 6, "there has been no response from AC."

As such, Brink's is pursuing the matter in Federal Court and is seeking a trial in Toronto. In addition to the value of the stolen goods, the company is also seeking an unknown amount of "special damages" and legal costs.

Air Canada declined to comment on the matter when asked to by CBC News on Thursday. 

The Vancouver Bullion and Currency Exchange was the intended ultimate recipient for the cash, and TD Bank was the intended recipient for the gold. When asked for comment by CBC News on Thursday, both entities declined.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Pete Evans

Senior Business Writer

Pete Evans is the senior business writer for CBCNews.ca. Prior to coming to the CBC, his work has appeared in the Globe & Mail, the Financial Post, the Toronto Star, and Canadian Business Magazine. Twitter: @p_evans Email: pete.evans@cbc.ca

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