Since the Royal Canadian Mint opened its current facility in Ottawa in 1908, it has endured a surprising history of being robbed by its own employees. While similar stories have certainly plagued other major world mints—such as the case involving the San Francisco Mint at the turn of the 20th century—none seem to have had such a rash of valuables being stolen from inside the mint as the RCM has in the relatively recent past 2 decades.
Even funnier, the mint seems not to have noticed that its gold was stolen at all until long after the fact. Given the 709,000 ounces of gold the mint pumped out in 2014, as well as the C$2.4 billion (~$1.8 billion USD) in revenue it raked in last year.
Mounties Uncover Theft
According to news reports, it was not through an internal investigation that the RCM discovered it had been robbed of its gold. Rather, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) quietly looked into the matter, which authorities in Canada claim took place between last November and March of 2015.
Afterward, the Mounties merely “informed” the mint of their findings, according to the RCM itself. By all indications, this was the first that the mint was hearing about it. This means that the rest of the staff, including management, may have never known the metal was gone at all.
History’s Funny Habit
If you’ve never heard the axiom, history has a funny habit: it repeats itself. Indeed, as scandalous as this recent news about the Royal Canadian Mint being robbed (internally, it would seem) sounds, it’s hardly the first such instance the RCM has allegedly been the victim of theft at the hands of its own.
In fact, the RCM has a dubious history of allowing people to rather easily stroll out of the joint with the mint’s gold, especially in the recent past:
- 1990: A janitor working at the mint, George Allen, is convicted for stealing C$30,000 in precious metal from his employer. His activities were uncovered by Canada’s Revenue Agency, which noticed over a hundred thousand dollars in undocumented income for the janitor between 1985 and 1988, as well as suspiciously luxurious purchases he made during the time. Eventually, he tripped a metal detector at work, and 49 oz of gold were found hidden in his personal locker.The C$30,000 figure ($22,600 USD) supplied by investigators was merely a guess, however, as the mint had no clue how much gold was taken in total—it may have been far more than what Allen was charged for.
- 1996: Richard Gauthier, a man who works as a machinist at the mint, steals 85 troy ounces in gold bars (8 bars in total) from the building. Gauthier received a fairly light sentence two years later, serving just 9 months in jail in addition to 50 hours of community service. He was spared from a theft charge because the RCM could never substantiate how Gauthier got the metal out the door, which said little for the mint’s existing security measures.
- 2009: While no form of robbery or burglary was definitively involved, this case centered around 17,500 troy ounces of gold missing from the RCM’s books, wholly unaccounted for. Both the mint and the police chalked the incident up to faulty record-keeping.
- 2014-2015: Mint employee Leston Lawrence is being charged with, among other crimes, transporting metals out of the mint himself (i.e. theft). Canadian authorities as well as spokespersons from the mint have been tight-lipped about the nature of the crime and the amount stolen.
The mint likely wants to avoid any embarrassment by publicizing the facts of the case, but it is yet another case where the theft was uncovered not by the mint itself but by outside investigators. We know that the RCM has cutting-edge security technology built-in to its bullion coin designs—so why can’t it seem to maintain such security at its own facilities?