Police make arrests in the great maple syrup swindle

MONTREAL – There have been arrests in the case of a massive maple syrup heist, police announced Tuesday as they celebrated a break in their months-long multi-jurisdictional search for the stolen sticky stuff.

Three people have been detained in connection with the theft of a large quantity of the national condiment from a warehouse in Quebec.

About 2.7 million kilos of maple syrup was reported missing after a routine inventory check last summer. Or, if your preferred unit of measurement is pancakes, the stolen amount would have provided a one-tablespoon topping for a whopping 183 million flapjacks.

Police say they have now recovered most of the missing syrup. They have also seized vehicles suspected of being used in the trafficking operation and equipment like scales and electronic lifts.

Those arrested are expected to face charges in a Trois-Rivieres courtroom of theft, conspiracy, fraud and trafficking in stolen goods Tuesday.

There are arrest warrants out for five other people.

“This investigation is not over,” Claude Denis of the Quebec provincial police said.

“It’s ongoing, and other arrests could follow.”

Officers from the RCMP, the Canada Border Services Agency and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement assisted the Quebec provincial police in the investigation — which featured interviews with 300 people in the maple syrup industry in Quebec, Ontario, New Brunswick and the northern U.S.

The alleged crime occurred at one of the several warehouses containing Quebec’s maple syrup stockpile, which is generally about 21 million kilos worth roughly $120 million.

The theft was discovered during a routine inventory check at the warehouse belonging to the Quebec Federation of Maple Syrup Producers in St-Louis-de-Blandford, Que.

Most of the breakfast bootie has been recovered.

“Two-thirds of stolen syrup was recovered,” Denis said.

Even though Quebec claims to produce four-fifths of the world’s maple syrup, the missing barrels did not actually affect world prices, one industry insider says.

The missing amount comprised barely one-10th of the province’s strategic reserve.

“In terms of volume it’s very big but in relation to the entire inventory, it’s small,” said Simon Trepanier, acting director-general of the Quebec Federation of Maple Syrup Producers.

“In terms of supply of the market, at the level of volumes, it didn’t really have an impact.”

Trepanier said he didn’t know whether any of the stolen syrup made it to market.

Looking for more?

Get the Best of Maclean's sent straight to your inbox. Sign up for news, commentary and analysis.