Looks like Vice Canada’s Toronto office in Liberty Village may have been used as recruitment ground zero for potential drug smugglers. The National Post is reporting that three different Vice contributors have independently come forward to claim former music editor, Yaroslav Pastukhov (who went by Slava Pastuk) tried to recruit them to smuggle cocaine to Australia.
Pastukhov worked as an editor for music-themed vertical, Noisey Canada until February 16th, 2016 when he was terminated after an investigation by an outside criminal law firm that was launched because of complaints about his conduct. The three contributors who provided details to the Post were one full-time staff member, one intern, and one former intern-turned-freelancer. They all claim that Pastukhov offered them a “free trip to Australia” and $10,000 to carry cocaine hidden in the lining of suitcases from Las Vegas to Australia.
Pastukhov specifically targeted interns and young journalists who were eager to take on assignments, impress editors and hold on to solid connections they were just beginning to forge in the industry. One source told the Post he felt uncomfortable at work after Pastukhov tried to recruit him, adding that he felt “exploited”.
None of the Post’s three sources took Pastukhov up on his offer, but Jordan Gardner, an up and coming electronic music artist from Toronto (who also happened to be Pastukhov’s roommate) was arrested in an Australian airport at the end of 2015 for trying to smuggle cocaine into the country. He’s currently in prison there awaiting trial, and according to his lawyer, he was pressured into making the trip by Pastuhov, who also made threats against Gardner and his family if he didn’t cooperate.
Vice Canada is known for being a “drug-tolerant” and liberal workplace that publishes youth-focused stories that are often outside the mainstream media box. That being said, Chris Ball, Vice Canada’s head of communications made it clear to the Post that they don’t foster a culture of illicit substance use in the office. “In fact, our employee handbook quite clearly states that ‘the use, possession, sale, transfer, offering or furnishing of illegal drugs or illegal use of other controlled substances while on duty or on Vice premises is prohibited.’”
No criminal charges have been filed and Pastukhov has declined to comment on the allegations.