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At a news conference, police officers open the back of a truck used in a major heist one year after gold and cash were stolen from Toronto Pearson International Airport on April 17.Carlos Osorio/Reuters

Police say they have solved the largest gold heist in Canadian history, arresting six people and seizing 65 guns headed for Canada in a multijurisdictional investigation into the theft at Toronto Pearson International Airport a year ago.

Warrants have been issued for three other people, including an Air Canada manager who resigned last summer. He is one of two suspects who worked for the airline, while another suspect owns a jewellery store, Peel Police Detective Sergeant Mike Mavity told reporters at a news conference in Brampton, Ont., on Wednesday.

The nine are accused of taking part in the heist of $20-million in gold bars weighing 400 kilograms and $2.5-million in foreign currencies. They face charges in Canada that include theft, conspiracy to commit an indictable offence and possession of property obtained by crime. One suspect faces charges in the U.S. of trafficking firearms police say were headed to Canada.

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Peel Police Deputy Chief Nick Milinovich speaks to the media at a press conference regarding Project 24K a joint investigation into the theft of gold from Pearson International Airport, in Brampton, Ont., on April 17.Arlyn McAdorey/The Canadian Press

“This isn’t just about gold,” said Nando Iannicca, chairman of the Peel Police Services Board. “This is about how gold becomes guns.”

Det. Sgt. Mavity said the suspects sold the gold to import firearms into Canada. Police seized six bracelets worth $90,000 and $430,000 in cash and smelting equipment, but have not found most of the gold. The investigation continues on several fronts.

“We believe the gold has been melted down [for] the international market,” Det. Sgt. Mavity said. “That is unfortunately easy.”

On the afternoon of April 17, 2023, the precious cargo arrived on an Air Canada flight from Zurich and was moved to the airline’s warehouse next to the airport. Soon after, the driver of a white five-tonne truck backed up to the warehouse loading dock and presented a bogus waybill used for seafood. The container holding the gold – 6,600 bars – and cash was forklifted onto the truck.

“The suspect then drives away,” Det. Sgt. Mavity said.

Over the next four weeks, investigators tracked the truck’s path northwest of the city using cameras from 225 businesses and residences.

Police soon identified the suspected driver as Durante King-Mclean, a 25-year-old man from Brampton, but could not find him. He was stopped in September by Pennsylvania State Police for a traffic violation while driving a rented car with the 65 guns inside.

That turned out to be the break Peel police needed. The U.S. police found Mr. King-Mclean’s name in a database as wanted for questioning in Ontario.

“This is when the co-operation started,” Eric DeGree, a U.S. Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms Bureau agent, told reporters at the news conference. He said the seized guns include two fully automatic weapons and five “ghost guns,” which have no serial numbers and are not traceable. The weapons were headed to Canada, Mr. DeGree said. Investigators are still tracking the sources and buyers of the guns, he said.

Mr. King-Mclean is in U.S. custody on gun charges. The charged suspects in Canada were arrested and released in recent months, Det. Sgt. Mavity said.

According to a U.S. Grand Jury indictment that preceded Mr. King-Mclean’s charges, he and two other accused began using encrypted messages one week after the gold heist to discuss his entering the U.S. illegally to buy guns and bringing them back to Canada.

Mr. King-Mclean wound up staying at an Airbnb in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., communicating on social media with other accused conspirators about gun purchases and swapping pictures of firearms and wads of cash wrapped in elastic bands. The others discussed delivering money to Mr. King-Mclean and encouraged him to buy guns.

He left Florida on Aug. 28, and was pulled over by police in Franklin County, Penn., on Sept. 2. “During the course of the stop, [Mr.] King-Mclean fled on foot and was captured by police at the scene,” the indictment reads. Of the 65 guns police found in the car’s trunk, 11 were stolen and two were listed as machine guns, the indictment reads.

Police on Wednesday said the Air Canada employees’ positions in the warehouse were key to executing the heist. The fraudulent waybill was printed at the warehouse, and was actually for seafood handled the previous day.

“The positions of the people involved made it easier,” Peel Police Deputy Chief Nick Milinovich said of the Air Canada employees, Parmpal Sidhu and Simran Preet Panesar. Mr. Panesar remains at large.

Air Canada spokesman Peter Fitzpatrick confirmed the two men worked in Air Canada’s cargo operations at the time of the theft. “One left the company prior to the arrests announced today and the second has been suspended,” Mr. Fitzpatrick said.

He declined to say how Air Canada’s operations changed after the gold heist because the effectiveness of any new procedures hinges on their confidentiality. He said Air Canada reviews safety and security incidents and makes changes where needed, to ensure they can be prevented.

The theft is the subject of a lawsuit filed in October by Brink’s Inc., which arranged the shipment, against Air Canada. Brink’s was moving the valuables on behalf of two customers, Toronto-Dominion Bank and the Vancouver Bullion and Currency Exchange. Brink’s has said it reimbursed its customers for their losses. The companies had no immediate comment on Wednesday.

Brink’s alleged in its lawsuit the thieves were able to make off with the gold because the warehouse had poor security procedures. It accuses Air Canada of “negligence and carelessness” in the handling of the cargo.

“No security protocols or features were in place to monitor, restrict or otherwise regulate the unidentified individual’s access to the facilities,” Brink’s alleges in its civil suit, filed in the Federal Court of Canada.

Air Canada denied the allegations in court filings, and said its liability fell far short of the gold’s value.

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