Authorities arrest nine in Canada gold heist at Toronto airport

Peel Regional Police and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives on Tuesday will announce details of arrests made in connection to heist in Canada. File Photo by Patrick D. McDermott/UPI

April 17 (UPI) -- Authorities in Canada said Wednesday nine arrests have been made in the investigation of last year's heist of gold worth over $20 million from Toronto's Pearson International Airport, which had reverberating effects in communities, authorities said.

"This particular theft has become the largest gold theft in Canadian history," Peel Regional Police Chief Nishan Duraiappah said at a press conference held at the large complex in Brampton, a locality outside Toronto in the province of Ontario.

On April 17, 2023, the estimated $14 million worth of 6,600 gold bars -- weighing more than 881 pounds -- and other high-value items were stolen from Pearson International Airport.

Each bar was 99% pure gold. Stolen bank notes were in other national currencies and various denominations totaling roughly $1.8 million.

"And it's one of the largest [gold thefts] for that matter in North America," he added.

Nine individuals have been arrested, and three Canada-wide arrest warrants issued for 19 related charges, according to the chief.

The announcement comes on the heist's one-year anniversary and amid months of relative silence from authorities on the high-profile case.

But this particular crime, the chief said, involved a "carefully planned and well-organized group of criminals from both inside and outside of airport facilities that orchestrated this theft."

The year-long international effort included the Peel Regional Police and the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. The arrests were made as part of the 17-member Project 24K, "a joint-task investigation into the theft of gold" from the main airport that serves Canada's most populated city of Toronto.

Duraiappah took note of the amount of silence that has comes since the theft and ensuing investigation, and the team's excitement to "reveal in a way we have not done before, the 'nuances' of this investigation."

"That was intentional to preserve the integrity of this project," Duraiappah explained.

This crime "wasn't just a theft of an item that had significant value, it has a direct correlation to the compromise of our safety here in Canada, and the borders, the integrity of the U.S. and this an example of how the footprint of things that happen in our community can have rippling effects."

Duraiappah said the investigation team had also "interrupted the transportation of a large quantity of firearms intended for import here into Canada."

He admitted the "story is a sensational one," which he joked saying "belongs in a Netflix series."

Detective Sgt. Mike Mavity, case manager for the project's investigation, pointed out that while some aspects of the investigation are "nearing completion, other aspects are still ongoing."

Mavity said the stolen items had been ordered from a refinery in Zurich, Switzerland, and transported in the hull of an Air Canada flight "in an improved airline container destined for Toronto," which arrived at 3:56 p.m. EDT on Wednesday before getting unloaded.

Originally, authorities said the goods were in "a high-value container" that had been stolen from a holding cargo facility where it had been offloaded from a plane.

At 6:32 p.m. EDT the suspect had arrived driving a five-ton truck and had a fraudulent airway bill. Later, the gold was loaded on the truck.

He said Peel police were contacted the following day and advised that the gold had been stolen.

Investigators went "door-to-door," Mavity said, which included visits to more than 225 separate homes and businesses in Peel and surrounding areas to try and obtain further evidence. They interviewed 50 individuals and executed 37 search warrants, which discovered $311,000 currency believed to be stolen in the heist.

Along with gold jewelry worth more than $64,000 that was sent for testing and determined to be pure gold, along with a "debt lists" for $6.7 million, which investigators believe was relevant to the stolen gold.

The lists were found at two separate locations.

But authorities have said that this is still is an ongoing investigation.

The truck's driver, Durante King-McLean, is a 25-year-old Brampton male currently in U.S. custody on firearms trafficking-related charges.

King-McLean is charged in Canada with theft over $3,600, possession of property obtained by crime.

He was identified "early on" in the investigation and got caught in September by Pennsylvania State Police after minor vehicle violations, according to Eric DeGree, the ATF Special Agent In Charge of the Philadelphia Field Division Office, also involved in the international effort.

King-McLean was illegally in the United States in a rental car with 65 illegal firearms in a "gun-trafficking operation" on the way to Canada when stopped in Pennsylvania, DeGree added.

A Canada-wide arrest warrant had been issued for:

Simran Preet Panesar, a 31-year-old Brampton man and former Air Canada employee at the time of the theft. He was charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offense and theft over $3,600.

Archie Grover, a 36-year-old Brampton man, who was charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offense, theft over $3,600 and a charge in the United States for firearms trafficking.

Arsalan Chaudhary, a 42-year-old man from Mississauga, charged with Conspiracy to commit indictable offense, theft over $5,000 and two charges of possession of property obtained by crime.

The following men were charged but released on conditions:

Parmpal Sidhu, a 54-year-old man from Brampton, who was an Air Canada employee. He was getting charged with conspiracy to commit an indictable offense and theft over $3,600.

Amit Jalola, 40, faced two charges for possession of property obtained by crime, conspiracy to commit an indictable offense and theft over $3,600.

Ammad Chaudhary, a 43-year-old man from Georgetown charged with accessory after the fact of an indictable offense.

Ali Reza, a 37-year-old Toronto man charged with possession of property obtained by crime. He is also a jewelry store owner.

Prasath Paramalingam, a 35-year-old Brampton man charged with accessory after the fact of an indictable offense, firearms trafficking, aiding and abetting, and a charged in the United States for conspiracy.