Syrup and sin

EVERY spring schoolchildren in Quebec flock to cabanes à sucre (sugar shacks) in the woods to watch “sugarmakers” boil down the sap of maple trees into syrup and to sample sticky confections. But this sugary pastime has a sinister side, as Quebeckers are now learning through a sensational criminal trial. The defendants are accused of stealing syrup worth C$18.7m ($14m) from the province’s “strategic reserve”, a caper that involved the use of throwaway “burner phones” and shoeboxes stuffed with cash. Maple syrup’s circuitous journey from shack to flapjack, the trial has revealed, offers many opportunities for skulduggery, and even for violence.

Richard Vallières, one of the four defendants on trial in Trois-Rivières, admits that he acted as a “barrel roller”, someone who helps producers find customers who are willing to pay more than the only legal buyer in the province, the Federation of Quebec Maple Syrup Producers. In 2011, he says, he was approached to carry out a much riskier crime: stealing from the federation itself. Prosecutors say a lorry-driver transported blue barrels full of syrup from the…Continue reading

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