Police have arrested a former journalist and a second man, charging both as part of an alleged conspiracy to import cocaine to Australia.
In a press release, the Greater Toronto Area RCMP Serious and Organized Crime Section announced they arrested Yaroslav Pastukhov, 28—who went by the name Slava Pastuk, and who was the Canadian editor of VICE’s musical vertical Noisey from February 2014 to February 2016—and Ali Taki Lalji, 30, on January 31. The release links the arrests back to a December 22, 2015 incident in which “five individuals (four Canadians and one American) flew to Sydney, Australia. All five were interdicted by Australian authorities at Sydney International Airport and found to be in possession of nearly 40 kilograms of cocaine.”
“Both allegedly conspired with the five individuals to traffic cocaine into Australia,” reads a latter portion of the release. In court documents obtained by VICE, RCMP say the alleged conspiracy took place “between November 1st, 2015 and December 31st, 2015.”
According to LinkedIn, Lalji worked in digital media for a number of companies, including a stint in sales at VICE Canada that ended in October 2014.
The RCMP say that Pastukhov had been residing in Montreal under an alias before his arrest.
The five individuals who flew to Australia in the incident mentioned in the press release have all pleaded guilty and have since been sentenced—Jordan Gardner, 27, and Kutiba Senusi, 24, were sentenced to seven and a half years; Robert Wang, 25, received six and a half years; Nathaniel Carty, 23, was given five and a half; and Porscha Wade, 21, received three years.
During their trial, the court heard that Pastukhov allegedly recruited the would-be drug mules, organized the trips and threatened some of the young recruits when they got cold feet.
Pastukhov was fired from VICE in February of 2016. When the story surrounding Pastukhov was first publicized a year later by the National Post, a spokesperson for VICE said that he was “promptly terminated” when management at the media company became aware of this actions.
In a statement, RCMP Superintendent Chris Leather, Officer in Charge of GTA Serious & Organized Crime, said that the arrests were a “result of efforts and collaboration on the part of multiple domestic and foreign partner agencies.”
Lalji and Pastukhov appeared in court on February 4 and are next expected to appear on February 6.
With files from Rachel Browne.
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