The Mastermind of "The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist" Has Been Found Guilty

Four years ago, thieves in Quebec made international headlines after stealing 3,000 tons of syrup from the province's maple syrup "cartel."

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Nov 14 2016, 8:00pm

Photo by Nick Rose.

Four years ago, thieves in Quebec made international headlines after stealing 3,000 tons of maple syrup belonging to the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup, often referred to as Quebec's maple syrup "cartel." At $2,000 per barrel (roughly 13 times the price of crude oil), it was one hell of a loot. And though much of it was never recovered, the total stolen volume was estimated at $18.7 million.

But as brazen as "The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist" of 2012 was, it didn't take police a long time to track down the culprits. It did take some time, however, for police to work out the scale of the operation. Their investigation led to 26 arrests and more than 200 witnesses being interviewed by police, and we can finally get some closure in a case that shook la belle province to its sweet, sticky core.

READ MORE: Boiling Point: Inside Quebec's Maple Syrup War

Two of the suspects allegedly at the heart of the operation were found guilty by jurors in Trois-Rivières on Saturday, the CBC reports. One of the men, Richard Vallières, argued that he had been forced to buy the stolen syrup and replace it with water after being threatened by an unnamed man carrying a gun. Evidently, the jury did not buy this defense and instead found Vallières guilty of theft, fraud, and trafficking stolen goods.

The other suspect convicted here was Étienne St-Pierre, a maple syrup buyer accused of buying the stolen syrup and rebranding it as New Brunswick syrup. Defiant, St-Pierre reportedly told the jury, "You can't prove what tree the syrup came from." Once again, the jury did not buy this argument and found him guilty of fraud and trafficking stolen goods.

Both Vallières and St-Pierre had been very critical of the Federation, whose job it is to fix the price of maple syrup, impose production quotas on producers, and stockpile what's left in its Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve. And while this framework continues to dictate how 100 millions pounds of maple syrup get processed annually, it is being reviewed by the government.

It's worth mentioning that in August, thieves stole 20,000 litres of syrup, valued at $150,000, from a storage facility near near Montreal's airport. With so much money at stake, it's not surprising that price-fixing and theft of maple syrup are taking place in Quebec; it appears that some foods are just as fiercely guarded as your favourite recreational drugs.

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