Toronto

Here's what we know — and don't — about the $20M heist at Pearson airport

The theft of gold and other pricey items worth an estimated $20 million from a container at Toronto's Pearson International Airport continued to be the subject of an intensive police investigation Friday.

Gold and other items still not found, no arrests made as of Friday

A sign for Toronto Pearson International Airport is pictured in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday, April 20, 2023.
A sign for Toronto Pearson International Airport is pictured in Mississauga, Ont., on Thursday. (Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press)

The theft of gold and other pricey items worth an estimated $20 million from a container at Toronto's Pearson International Airport continued to be the subject of an intensive police investigation Friday.

In a statement to CBC News, the Greater Toronto Airports Authority (GTAA), which runs the airport, said thieves accessed the public side of a warehouse leased to a third party and that the area is outside of its primary security line.

The high-stakes heist has drawn international attention, with many asking how such a brazen robbery is possible.

With police tightlipped about their investigation, there are still many unanswered questions. Here's a breakdown of what we know, and what we don't, about what happened at Pearson.

What we know so far

The container arrived Monday: Insp. Stephen Duivesteyn, spokesperson for Peel Regional Police, told reporters Thursday that the container arrived on a plane early Monday evening. The plane was unloaded according to normal procedure and its cargo taken to an airport holding facility before it was "removed by illegal means."

When police learned about the theft: According to Duivesteyn, the theft was reported shortly after it was discovered.

There are no ongoing threats to passengers or GTAA staff: The GTAA says the theft did not involve access to Toronto Pearson itself and did not pose a threat to passengers or GTAA staff. In fact, Duivesteyn said investigators believe "this to be an isolated incident." He said travellers who may be concerned about going through Pearson should have no concerns. "We do not consider this to be a public safety matter."

There were no disruptions to airport operations: Pearson airport remains open and there were no disruptions to airport operations.

No arrests have been made: As of Friday, no one has been arrested in connection with the heist and no possible suspects have been publicly identified by police.

A drone's view of planes at gates.
The GTAA says the theft did not involve access to Toronto Pearson itself and did not pose a threat to passengers or staff. (Yan Theoret/CBC/Radio-Canada)

What we don't know

There are many open questions about the robbery. Here are some key facts that remain unknown at this time:

  • The origin of the flight.
  • The airline that operated the flight. CTV News reported Friday that Air Canada was the airline, attributing the information to an anonymous source. CBC News is working to confirm this information.
  • The destination of the gold and other items.
  • If the gold was in bar form or bullion. Bars can be stamped with identification numbers.
  • Exactly what the other high value items were.
  • Who owned the gold and other items that were stolen.
  • If the gold and other items are still in Canada or have been moved to another country.
  • How many potential suspects were involved in the heist.

WATCH | What police will be looking for in the investigation:

Gold heist: What will police be looking for?

10 months ago
Duration 1:33
P.Y. Bourduas, a former deputy RCMP commissioner, outlines what law enforcement will be looking for after a stunning Toronto-area heist in which thieves made off with $20 million in 'high value' items - including gold.

A 'break in protocol,' former RCMP officer says

Former RCMP deputy commissioner Pierre-Yves Bourduas says there was obviously a "break in protocol" at the airport, because when these types of cargo arrive at an international port, there are strict guidelines to follow to ensure their security.

Bourduas told CBC News he found it to be "quite surprising that you have a container that was breached and $20 million has essentially vanished."

Pierre-Yves Bourduas.
Former RCMP deputy commissioner Pierre-Yves Bourduas told CBC News he found it 'quite surprising that you have a container that was breached and $20 million has essentially vanished.' (CBC)

He expects the investigation will try to determine the following:

  • Where the container came from.
  • What was the process that was followed.
  • Who knew when the container would be arriving, where it would be going, and once on location at the airport — who actually managed it from the plane to the holding area.
  • The accessibility to the container at the holding facility.

Bourduas does not believe that it was one or two individuals who "decided on a whim to try their luck at stealing this particular container."

"These individuals are obviously well organized, well structured, had information beforehand and had probably prepared and planned this way ahead of time. Everything was probably very much structured just to ensure success in their endeavour," he said.

While Peel Regional Police have taken the lead on the investigation, Bourduas believes the RCMP and the Canada Border Services Agency will likely be involved.

According to Bourduas, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) has long indicated that organized crime has infiltrated different points of entry in the country, including airports.

With files from Muriel Draaisma, Linda Ward and Desmond Brown

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