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Thieves made off with a container holding more than $20-million worth of gold and other valuables from a cargo facility at Toronto Pearson International Airport this week.

The container holding the precious metal arrived by plane Monday evening and was taken shortly after, Peel Regional Police Inspector Stephen Duivesteyn told reporters on Thursday at a news conference near Canada’s busiest airport.

He declined to name or describe the container’s owner nor say when it went missing. “This high-value container was removed by illegal means,” he said.

The box is about the size of an aircraft shipping container, about five-feet wide, he said.

The RCMP could be asked to participate, if needed, but the investigation is in the hands of his best detectives, he said.

“Our goal is to solve this theft,” he said. He did not know the gold’s intended destination before it was stolen. The theft was an “isolated incident” and travellers should not fear using the airport, he said.

Air Canada’s cargo operations were handling the gold when it went missing, according to a person familiar with the situation. The Globe and Mail is not identifying the person because they are not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.

Air Canada spokesperson Peter Fitzpatrick declined to comment.

“As this is an active police investigation, we are unable to provide any comments regarding the matter at this time,” said Jenn Bell, a spokeswoman for the Greater Toronto Airports Authority, the operator of Pearson.

The Toronto Sun reported early Thursday that the gold was stolen as it was being shipped through Pearson airport, citing unnamed sources. Police are looking at local organized crime gangs as possible suspects, the Sun reported.

Insp. Duivesteyn refused to speculate whether organized crime gangs were involved. “Our investigators have their eyes open to all avenues so we really don’t want to make an error and focus on one particular area,” he said. “So we’re going to look at all angles. … For me to say it was professional [heist] at this time, I’d be hesitant to say such a thing.”

Nadine Ramadan, a spokeswoman for Transport Minister Omar Alghabra, said Transport Canada is in contact with the airport over the matter, but declined to provide details.

Gold is a tempting item for thieves because relatively small, transportable amounts can be worth a lot of money. Gold thefts have made many headlines over the years.

A series called The Gold that aired on BBC this year focuses on the famous Brink’s-Mat robbery in 1983, when tens of millions of dollars worth of gold bars, diamonds and cash was stolen by armed robbers from a facility near London’s Heathrow Airport.

In 1976, a group blasted through a wall at the British Bank of the Middle East in Beirut, Lebanon, and made off with gold bars and other valuables.

In 2020, armed robbers overtook security guards on the runway at a mine in Mexico owned by Canada’s Alamos Gold Inc. and stole the gold bars the guards were loading on a plane for transport. A small plane landed at the site and whisked away the robbers with the gold minutes later.

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