Crime Of The Century: 22.5 Million Dollar Pearson Airport Gold Heist

Mainstream news outlets have had a field day concerning a gold heist which had taken place at Toronto’s Pearson-YYZ airport this past week. With a group of 9 criminals being implicated in a 22.5 million dollar gold heist that had taken place last year. Believe it or not, this is not the first airport/gold heist that has taken place in Ontario’s history, with the first, taking place on April 17th, in 1974 taken from the Ottawa International Airport by three measly men, later dubbed ‘The Stopwatch Gang’.

The Stopwatch Gang was a group of 3 bank robbers that had lead a life of crime and bank robbery throughout the ’70’s. The group consisted of Paddy Mitchell, Stephen Reid and Lionel Wright, who had robbed more than 15 million dollars throughout the span of 1974 all the way up to 1980, from 140 banks around North America.

News headlines of Ottawa Airport gold robbery of 1974.

Their first coup consisted of a gold heist at the Ottawa International Airport were they succeeded in stealing 6 gold bars headed to the Royal Canadian Mint worth nearly 4 million dollars in today’s currency, 750,000$ at the time of the heist. They were later incarcerated for this heist, which they managed to escape prison and lead a successful life as bank robbers throughout North America, thanks to Lionel Wright’s successful attempt at forging ID’s at the time.

Exactly 49 years later, on April 17th, 2023, Pearson International Airport had been a factor of the nearly 23 million dollar gold heist. Authorities only had video evidence of a forklift loading a pallet of gold into a truck, which then headed from the airport cargo load down Britannia Road East, to Dixon Road and embarking on the 401 West, Ontario’s main highway that cuts through Toronto. The shocking part, is that this heist was an inside job; with two Air Canada employees being in on the heist.

Video of an Air Canada employee and Durante loading the gold onto the truck.

6,600 gold bars had been stolen, totaling of 400.19 kilograms, each bar varied in size and weight, but the mass of the bars had been nearly 100% pure gold, being 99.9%. It wasn’t only the gold that was stolen, with it being 20 million dollars, but also bank notes that had yielded the suspects 2.5 million dollars. The gold was destined for the Toronto-Dominion Bank.

Phony waybill used.

The thieves had made a duplicate copy of a waybill, stating that a shipment of 1200 kilograms of seafood fish were set to be picked up. The seafood was supposed to come from Scotland. At around 6pm on April 17th, a then, unknown suspect backed up a white truck into the Air Canada cargo-loading dock of Pearson International Airport. We now know that this was the truck driver of whom was in on the heist, 25-year-old Durante King-McLean from Brampton.

Durante then went into the loading dock, where another Air Canada employee wheeled in a pallet, in which the gold, hailing from Switzerland was set on. The truck then headed down the 401 West to a jewelry store. The suspects went directly to work and started melting the gold bars into gold bracelets. 6 of these gold bracelets where eventually seized, their value; a little over 89,000$, a wee fraction of what had been stolen.

This is where our second suspect comes into play, Ali Raza. 37-year-old Raza was the owner of the jewelry store in which played part to melt the gold bars, allegedly in the basement of the store. Although this may seem like the perfect crime so far, a mistake had been made when Durante had taken off his glove, touching the clipboard and waybill which would result in authorities first big break into the case.

Durante, with one glove off.
Tools used in melting the gold bars. Authorities managed to seize these instruments.

While the gold was being melted and molded into bracelets, Brinks was set to pick up the load of gold towards 9:30pm, which is when they realized the pallet was missing. Authorities hadn’t been advised until 2am on April 18th. Air Canada had already started an internal investigation once Brinks had advised them the gold pallet was missing.

Police later located the truck, but Durante was nowhere to be found, at least, not in Canada. A turn of events would take place that would eventually leave the well-planned heist crumbling.

On September 2nd, 2023 on Interstate 81 North passing through Pennsylvania, a state trooper would make a traffic stop on a Nissan Sentra. Driving the Nissan Sentra was 25-year-old Durante King-McLean, already a man with a ton of heat on him, after police lifted his fingerprints off the waybill and clipboard, King McLean decided to take pursuit. The reason for the traffic stop was due to him swerving on the interstate, as well as his windows being tinted a shade too dark.

Durante King-McLean

King-McLean was apprehended a short time after he decided to flee the state trooper, American authorities would shortly figure out that he was a wanted man in Canada. The more incrimination fact came when the state troopers had popped the trunk of the Sentra. They had found 65 firearms, some even modified to shoot fully-automatic.

This had led to the American authorities, primarily the ATF, started an investigation of King-McLean and the gun smuggling ring in which he was involved. Out of those 65 firearms, 11 were stolen. It didn’t take long for the ATF to sift through King-McLean’s cellphone, which is where they found another ‘smoking gun’. This information had been critical to solve the gold heist that had taken part at Pearson airport just a few months earlier.

Some of the firearms seized in relation to the Pennsylvania bust.

If Durante had any slight type of criminal inkling, it would be shown through the encrypted communication app on his cellphone, which authorities had soon cracked. But Durante had also used Instagram to communicate with one of the suspects that was in on the heist, a not-so-smart move after executing one of the biggest thefts in Canadian history.

Pictures sent by Paramalingam to Durante.

The suspect that he had been communicating with was 35-year-old Parsath Paramalingam of Brampton. Messages showed on how they were discussing payment for the guns, in which Paramalingam had sent Durante pictures of bundled up Canadian hundred dollar bills. King-McLean and Paramalingam were both indicted in the United States. A third Brampton man, 36-year-old Archit Grover is also facing firearms trafficking charges in relation to the gun-bust. One American named Jalisa Edwards, only 25 and hailing from Fort Lauderdale, Florida was also arrested in the ATF’s firearms trafficking case.

Toronto police would soon after hold a press conference describing the nature of the crime on April 17th, 2024, exactly one year after the crime had taken place. Behind the slew of officers in uniform, parked right in the middle of the frame, lay the truck originally used in the heist. They would present the details in an investigation they dubbed ‘Project 24K’.

One suspect who seemed to have an amazing year, showing it all off on Instagram, was Air Canada employee and 54-year-old Parmpal Sidhu.

Sidhu’s account is currently deactivated, but he has been active in posting about his luxurious trips to Dubai and other countries. These trips are not the type of trips an Air Canada employee could afford, especially flying first class.

6 suspects have been arrested in relation to the Pearson gold heist and gun smuggling ring. All the while 3 other suspects are still wanted; the second Air Canada employee, 31-year-old Simran Preet Paneser, 42-year-old Arsalan Chaudhary and 36-year-old Archit Grover, the man implicated in the gun running operation along with King-McLean.

Parmpal Sidhu

It is known that King-McLean was staying at an AirBnB in Florida after the heist was executed, authorities also suspect that the thieves have fenced the gold through sources in Florida, although it still remains a mystery. It is believed the thieves used part of the gold proceeds to finance the gun-smuggling ring. Authorities have also announced to the public that neither of the Air Canada employees were the ones seen driving the forklift in the security footage.

The only backlash in which Air Canada had faced once the heist had been executed stemmed from Brinks. On April 27th, 2023, Brinks had reached out to Air Canada, expecting them to pay for the 22.5 million dollar load they had let slip. Air Canada did not respond, which led to Brinks taking legal action and posting up a 20 million dollar lawsuit in relation to this incident.

Brinks accused Air Canada of sloppy security and blamed them of how they function for the theft of the gold. Noting that they had let a heavily masked man present a waybill with no identification and not following up on the phony waybill. Air Canada denied all allegations that Brinks presented in November of 2023, even though they clearly noted the words ‘goldbars’ and ‘banknotes’ on the waybill.

Parmpal Sidhu spotted out on bail.

Only the 6 gold bracelets seized were found in relation to the heist, the rest is still a mystery. Although caught, had the group been successful in keeping the millions of dollars? Had they buried the cash? Sold the gold and put the funds in an offshore bank account?

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