Two former Vice Canada employees have been charged with conspiracy to import cocaine, following an investigation into a drug mule operation with alleged links to the Mexican drug cartel.
Yaroslav Pastukhov, 28, a former Vice music editor who wrote under the names Slava Pastuk and Slava P, and Ali Taki Lalji, 30, a former account manager with the media company, have been charged with conspiracy to import cocaine.
RCMP say members from the Greater Toronto area (Toronto North Detachment) Serious & Organized Crime Section arrested the two men on Jan. 31 for conspiring to import cocaine to Australia. Police say Pastukhov had been living in Montreal under an alias.
The two Toronto arrests follow a Dec. 2015 interception at Sydney International Airport that saw four Canadians and one American arrested after being found in possession of nearly 28 kilograms of cocaine with a street value of $22 million. Toronto DJ Jordan Mykel Gardner, New York model Nathaniel Brandon Carty, music promoter and former Vice intern Robert Wang, events management worker Kutiba Senusi, and aspiring Canadian model Porscha Wade, the girlfriend of one of Pastukhov’s friends, pleaded guilty and were sentenced to prison terms ranging from three to four and a half years for importing commercial quantities of cocaine.
“Based on the agreed facts, Judge Dina Yehia found that drug ring figures including Vice journalist Slavo Pastuk had heavied and cajoled the mules into carrying the drugs and most had accepted the task under duress,” reported The Sydney Morning Herald, in 2017.
The Australian allegations will be tested in a Canadian court. Pastukhov made his first court appearance Monday, while Lalji remains in custody pending a Feb. 6 bail hearing.
“This arrest by the RCMP came about as a result of efforts and collaboration on the part of multiple domestic and foreign partner Agencies and is a testament to the commitment of all agencies to bring these subjects to justice.” said RCMP Superintendent Chris Leather, Officer in Charge of GTA Serious & Organized Crime, in a press release.
Pastukhov was fired from Vice in Feb. 2016 after word of his involvement in the drug smuggling operation spread, following the arrests in Australia.