Espionage. Murder. Rudeness. This week’s nibble features none of these things. What’s this all aboot, you say? Join us on a trip to America’s top hat (Canada) to find out!
But before we get all sticky, let’s solve this week’s riddle:
What am I when today comes before yesterday?
Answer: A dictionary!!
Did you solve it? I know it was tough. If you didn’t, work on your skills! You’ll need them when you’re the detective in our interactive mystery series coming out this summer.
Now, it’s time for politeness, maple syrup, and a multi-million dollar heist!
Quebec- Land of the golden elixir.
Okay before we dive into the heist itself, there are a few things that need to be defined. The first being the word cartel:
a collection of otherwise independent businesses or countries that act together as if they were a single producer and thus can fix prices for the goods they produce and the services they render, without competition.
Quebec represents 77% of the global maple syrup supply and each barrel of maple syrup is around $1300 (for reference crude oil is about $71 per barrel as of this month.) Seeing as there was plenty of sugar (money) to be made in this business, in 1966, a group of producers participated in a plan to collectively market maple syrup.
This plan led to the larger formation of what became known as the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers or FPAQ (Fédération des producteurs acéricoles du Québec.)
FPAQ maintains a massive reserve of maple syrup across multiple warehouses throughout Quebec in case (heaven forbid) of a maple syrup shortage. The reserve is massive enough to officially be known as the International Strategic Reserve.
In the summer of 2012, an FPAQ associate made his way to a section of the Reserve, as part of their yearly inventory. The associate climbed up some barrels and almost tipped it completely over.
A barrel, when full, can weigh nearly 600 pounds so his footing should have been fairly solid… but this barrel was empty. No worries, just a mistake right?... RIGHT? WRONG.
Far too many empty barrels started showing up, and some had even been filled with water- an almost sure sign that someone was trying to cover their tracks.
Nearly 540,000 gallons of maple syrup had been stolen. That was 12.5 percent of the ENTIRE Reserve, with an estimated street value of $13.4 million.
But how? How does that much syrup just go missing?
Barrels of maple syrup at the Global Strategic Maple Syrup Reserve, in Quebec
The plan had been simple: transport the barrels to remote locations, siphon off the maple syrup, refill the barrels with water, then return the barrels to the correct facility.
The stolen syrup was then shipped down to America (Vermont & New York) or to the east (New Brunswick) where legitimate syrup distributors purchased the small batches, unaware of their wares' illegal origins.
But the thieves hands got a little sticky, and within the year over 17 individuals had been arrested in relation to the robberies.
Need more of a sugar high?
These two resources provide a deeper look into the origins of FPAQ, the men involved in the heist, and how the police recovered most of the stolen maple syrup!
A very humorous animated video about the heist
Vanity Fair - Inside Quebec’s Great, Multi-million Maple Syrup Heist
-Andy & Mark
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