Three men in their 60s face charges after police cracked an alleged plan to rob at least one armoured truck and had to destroy a possible bomb found in a Montreal apartment.
Police arrested the trio, aged 62, 63 and 65, on Friday and the suspects are expected to appear in court on Monday.
It was the first link of a chain of events that would end with a controlled explosion in a working-class neighbourhood early Sunday.
The device was found in a building where a number of retired and semi-retired tenants reportedly live.
Montreal police spokesman Constable Daniel Lacoursiere says that robbery squad detectives in the force’s Major Crimes Division had been investigating word of a possible heist for the last four months.
The urgency of the probe ramped up recently when they got a tip.
“Detectives got information to suggest that an attack on an armoured truck was imminent,” Mr. Lacoursiere said.
After the arrests of the three suspects — all of whom are known to police, Mr. Lacoursiere said — raids were carried out in Montreal and nearby Repentigny.
In one Montreal raid, detectives made a startling discovery.
“They found inside this apartment what they thought was an explosive device,” Mr. Lacoursiere said.
About 40 residents of the building in Montreal’s Pointe-St-Charles district were ordered to evacuate. Fire trucks and ambulances stood by as bomb squad experts examined the device and declared it dangerous.
Many of the building’s occupants took shelter on fire department buses as police cordoned off the area and firefighters laid out hoses in case of an explosion.
Police were on the scene for about 10 hours before the device was destroyed in a controlled explosion.
Mr. Lacoursiere said the arrested men will face a number of charges when they are arraigned.
He could not say precisely what those charges will be pending their approval by Crown prosecutors.
Montreal, which used to be known as the bank robbery capital of Canada, has also been famous for spectacular armoured truck heists.
In 1990, $15.9 million was stolen from armed guards on a Brink’s aircraft at what was then Dorval airport. At the time, he robbery was considered to be the biggest heist from a guarded transport in Canada. The case was solved years later.
One of the most legendary ripoffs happened in 1976 when Brink’s guards who were making a delivery to a bank in the city’s financial core found themselves staring into the barrel of a .50-calibre anti-aircraft gun mounted in the back of a van that had blocked them.
Robbers made off with $2.7 million in cash and special coins minted for the Montreal Olympics. The robbery was touted as the crime of the century, passing the famous Brink’s heist in Boston in 1950. The robbers have never been caught.
In 1981, a man made off with $2.4 million when he hopped into an unlocked armoured truck and brandished a gun at the driver, who had been left alone while two colleagues had gone to lunch. After forcing the driver out, the robber slid behind the wheel and drove off, later abandoning the emptied truck in an alley.