Canada Supreme Court reinstitutes sentencing in ‘Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist’

by mcardinal

Matt Bush, FISM News


Late last week the Canadian Supreme Court upheld a ruling in what has been dubbed “The Great Canadian Maple Syrup Heist, ” overturning an appeals court ruling that would have reduced the fine in the case.

In a story that proves reality is stranger than fiction, Canadian authorities discovered in 2012 that 9,571 barrels of maple syrup worth more than C$18 million were missing from warehouses rented by the Federation of Maple Syrup Producers.  Officials later discovered that that Richard Vallieres, and 15 other thieves had siphoned off maple syrup from the facility in Quebec and replaced the product with water on multiple occasions. 

Maple syrup is both a national treasure and major export of Canada. According to a Bloomberg article from last year, Quebec accounts for more than 70% of the global output of maple syrup and producers in Quebec set global prices, control global demand, and even keep huge reservoirs on hand just in case there is a shortage.  According to The Guardian, the organization that the thieves stole from “represents nearly 7,000 syrup producers and controls nearly 80% of the world’s maple syrup supply.” 

In 2016, Valieres, who is believed to be the mastermind of the scheme, was found guilty of fraud, trafficking, and theft, and was sentenced to eight years in prison and a fine C$9.5 million by the Quebec Superior Court. The judge in the case ruled, according to Canadian law, that when stolen property cannot be returned to its owner the fine must be equal to the value of the stolen goods.

An appeals court, however, later reduced the sentencing to a fine of only C$1 million, equal to the amount Valieres claimed he profited off of the heist.

Canada, while it has a Prime Minister, is a constitutional monarchy with Queen Elizabeth as its Head of State. The Crown, after hearing of the ruling, sought to have the original sentence reinstated.

Late last week, the Canadian Supreme Court ruled unanimously to reinstitute the initial fine and prison sentence while also stating that if Vallieres was unable to pay the C$9 million, roughly $7.1 million American, then he would face an additional six years in prison.

During the court hearings Valieres revealed that the plan was to siphon off the syrup, fill the reservoir with water so that it would look full, and then sell the siphoned product both to legitimate suppliers and on the black market at a discounted price.

As workers in the syrup industry, the thieves knew that the barrels in the strategic reserve were only inspected one time annually. The scheme was found out in 2012 during a routine check, after an investigator noticed that one of the reservoirs was lighter than it should be.

The heist became the subject of a popular Netflix series entitled “Dirty Money.” Already having all the markings of a Hollywood script, the media conglomerate advertised the episode like a James Bond thriller: “In Canada, maple syrup is worth more than oil. When $20 million of syrup goes missing, the trail leads back to an epic battle between cartels and the little guy.” 

Vallieres lawyer said after the ruling that his client was disappointed by the court’s decision and that he would find it nearly impossible to pay the fine that was reimposed.