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Inside Job: How FINTRAC Unraveled Canada's Biggest Gold Heist

FINTRAC, Canada’s Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre, has emerged as a critical player in the capture of the criminal network responsible for orchestrating the nation's most significant gold heist, according to recent disclosures.

Inside Job: How FINTRAC Unraveled Canada's Biggest Gold Heist

These revelations come amid proposed legislative reforms by the Canadian government, aiming to facilitate greater collaboration among banks and between banks and FINTRAC, the country’s financial intelligence unit.


Under the proposed changes, judges would gain discretionary powers to mandate banks to maintain accounts held by suspected money launderers open during investigations. Furthermore, law enforcement agencies would be granted authority to continuously monitor records of transactions associated with these accounts.


These proposed reforms follow the identification of nine suspects nearly a year after the audacious gold theft that occurred at Toronto Pearson International Airport. Approximately C$22.5 million (US$16.3 million) worth of gold bars and cash vanished on April 17 of the previous year.


Acknowledging FINTRAC's significant contribution, the agency disclosed, “FINTRAC’s financial intelligence was recognized by Peel Regional Police in ‘Project 24Karat,’ the investigation of a cargo theft containing 6600 bars of .9999% pure gold C$2.5 million dollars worth in foreign currency.”


During the investigation, law enforcement seized a cache of assets, including 65 firearms, smelting equipment, and around C$434,000 in cash.


"With the financial transaction reports received from Canadian businesses across the country, FINTRAC is providing valuable assistance to law enforcement and national security investigations,” the agency emphasized on Wednesday.


In a joint Canadian-U.S. press conference on Wednesday, Mike Mavity, the lead detective on the case, addressed reporters, unveiling significant insights into the heist. Mavity asserted that the operation was an inside job, implicating two Air Canada employees among the nine suspects now facing a total of 19 charges. The driver of the truck, identified as 25-year-old Durante King-Maclean, was also among those implicated.



The stolen gold was part of a shipment from a refinery in Zurich, Switzerland. King-Maclean allegedly obtained the gold using a duplicated airway bill, exploiting a security loophole. Investigators reconstructed his route by analyzing surveillance footage from over 220 businesses and residences.


Simran Preet Panesar, one of the Air Canada employees suspected in the heist, provided early cooperation to the investigation but subsequently resigned from his managerial position at the airline last summer, eluding authorities since then.


The involvement of the U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms Bureau (ATF) was catalyzed when King-Maclean was apprehended in Pennsylvania, where authorities discovered 65 firearms in his possession.


Authorities suspect the stolen gold was melted down and the proceeds used to finance the acquisition and transportation of firearms into Canada, leading to a broader investigation into potential links to other smuggling operations.


Nishan Duraiappah, chief of Peel regional police, remarked, “This story is a sensational one, one which, we jokingly said, will probably land on a Netflix series or something greater than that.”


Concurrently, the Canadian government's proposed legislative changes aim to enhance cooperation between financial institutions, law enforcement agencies, and FINTRAC in combating financial crimes, particularly money laundering. These reforms signal a proactive approach to bolstering the nation's defenses against organized crime and illicit financial activities.



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