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Police seize hundreds of barrels of syrup possibly linked to Quebec maple heist

Drums of Maple syrup are stacked in the International Strategic Reserve in Saint-Antoine-de-Tilly, 40km South-West of Quebec City Wednesday March 30, 2011.

Francis Vachon/The Globe and Mail

Quebec provincial police have seized hundreds of barrels of maple syrup from a New Brunswick business, telling the company that it was linked to an investigation into last month's headline-making theft of large amounts of Quebec's strategic reserve of syrup.

Police hauled away the sweet stuff from the warehouse of an exporter of maple products in Kedgwick, N.B., who told The Globe and Mail that he had purchased it from one of his regular Quebec suppliers.

A lawyer for the Quebec supplier said his client is a broker who obtained the syrup from other vendors in the province.

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A spokesman for the Sûreté du Québec, Sergeant Bruno Beaulieu, confirmed that a search warrant was executed last week "at a location on Highway 17 near Kedgwick" but said he could not comment further because the investigation was still on-going.

Julienne Bossé, a manager at the New Brunswick company, S.K. Exports, said she had been shown the search warrant and told by police officers that their investigation was connected with the disappearance of millions of dollars of maple syrup that vanished from a Quebec warehouse.

She said the syrup came from a regular supplier in Quebec. "He's a very honest man. We've never had problems."

Sarto Landry, a lawyer for the Quebec company that sold to S.K. Exports the syrup carted away by police, said his client purchased the product at regular prices and had no inkling it could have been stolen.

"There's a presumption that they acted in good faith and they're at ease with that," Mr. Landry said in a telephone interview.

SQ investigators have been meeting Quebec maple producers and asking them if they would submit to lie-detector tests, Mr. Landry said.

The Quebec police had to obtain a warrant from a New Brunswick court to seize the syrup from S.K. Products.

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Ms. Bossé estimated the police took away more than 600 barrels while her boss, S.K. Products owner Étienne St-Pierre, said about 800 barrels were hauled away.

Both said their firm was being scapegoated because they have often clashed in the past with the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers.

The federation, which controls the marketing and bulk sale of syrup in the province, has gone to court in the past and accused S.K. Products of buying from unauthorized Quebec sources.

"Quebec thinks it's no longer in Canada," Ms. Bossé said. "It's been years that their federation keeps hitting us and saying that we can't buy syrup in Quebec but we'll keep doing it."

The theft, from a supposedly secure warehouse in St-Louis-de-Blandford, Que., was discovered last month.

Neither the federation nor the police have revealed how much was stolen from the 23,500-barrel reserve but reports speculate that the purloined syrup amounted to thousands of barrels.

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Mr. St-Pierre and Mr. Landry said the amount seized by police was just a small portion of the missing inventory.

Quebec produces about 75 per cent of the world's maple syrup. Its federation's strategic reserve of unsold syrup was set up to cushion the impact of uneven harvests caused by poor weather.

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About the Author
National reporter

Tu Thanh Ha is based in Toronto and writes frequently about judicial, political and security issues. He spent 12 years as a correspondent for the Globe and Mail in Montreal, reporting on Quebec politics, organized crime, terror suspects, space flights and native issues. More

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