An employee of the Royal Canadian Mint allegedly smuggled about $180,000 in gold from the fortress-like facility, possibly evading multiple levels of detection with a time-honoured prison trick.
Hiding the precious metal up his bum.
The case against Leston Lawrence, 35, of Barrhaven concluded in an Ottawa courtroom Tuesday. Justice Peter Doody reserved decision until Nov. 9 on a number of smuggling-for-cash charges, including theft, laundering the proceeds of crime, possession of stolen property and breach of trust.
The Uck! factor aside, the case was also an illuminating look at security measures inside the Mint, the building on Sussex Drive that produces hundreds of millions of gold coins annually for the federal Crown corporation.
“Appalling,” was the conclusion of defence lawyer Gary Barnes, who described the Crown’s case as an underwhelming collection of circumstantial evidence.
“This is the Royal Canadian Mint, your Honour, and one would think they should have the highest security measures imaginable,” Barnes said in his closing submission.
“And here the gold is left sitting around in open buckets.”
Indeed, it was not even the Mint that discovered the alleged theft but an alert bank teller.
Court was told that, on multiple occasions, Lawrence took small circular chunks of gold — a cookie-sized nugget called a “puck” — to Ottawa Gold Buyers in the Westgate Shopping Centre on Carling Avenue.
Typically, the pucks weighed about 210 grams, or 7.4 ounces, for which he was given cheques in the $6,800 range, depending on fluctuating gold prices, court heard. He then deposited the cheques at the Royal Bank in the same mall.
One day a teller became suspicious at the size and number of Ottawa Gold Buyers cheques being deposited and Lawrence’s request to wire money out of the country. She then noticed on his account profile that he worked at the Mint. The first red flag was up.
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