slava pastuk cocaine

Former Vice Canada editor pleads guilty in cocaine conspiracy case

A Toronto-based journalist who made headlines in 2017 for his alleged role in an international drug smuggling ring pleaded guilty this week of conspiring to traffic cocaine.

Yaroslav Pastukhov (also known as Slava Pastuk) will serve 12 years in prison if federal prosecutors have their way, though his lawyer is arguing for "considerably less" time based on Pastukhov's admission of guilt.

The former VICE Canada music editor was released on bail after his court hearing on Monday and is scheduled to be sentenced October 31.

Pastukhov, 28, is one of at least seven people who've now been arrested as the result of a drug bust at Australia's Sydney International Airport, and certainly the most high-profile.

Four Canadian men and one woman, all in their 20s, were intercepted by police at the airport in December of 2016 with more than $6 million worth of cocaine hidden in their bags.

They were handed down prison sentences in 2017 ranging from three years to seven years and six months.

Pastukhov, however, wasn't arrested until January of 2019, despite widespread allegations that he had both recruited the five youth as drug mules and arranged the smuggling trip from Los Angeles to Sydney.

At least two of the young men involved have stated that it was Pastukhov who sought them out as drug couriers with promises of cash, free trips and professional sway while he was still working for Vice. One said that, upon trying to get out of the deal, Pastukhov threatened his family with violence.

More scandalous still, at least three current or former Vice employees admitted in an explosive 2017 National Post article that Pastukhov had personally attempted to recruit them from within the media company's Liberty Village office.

Vice Media told the Post at the time that it had cut ties with Pastukhov in February of 2016 after conducting an investigation into the recruitment allegations.

Pastukhov himself addressed the situation for the first time since his initial arrest on Monday afternoon, writing in a Twitter thread "now that I've taken the plea, I can finally talk about what really happened five years ago."

"Alright, so about all that cocaine," reads the first tweet in a thread about his alleged involvement in the drug trafficking ring.

"There was no intern funnel program to initiate people into Vice" he continued. "The truth is a little more nuanced and a lot more interesting than that. Everyone got involved for their own reasons."

Pastukhov goes on to call at least one of the other people who were arrested as a result of the airport bust "a big fibber" and accused the National Post of trying to assassinate his character.

"Nobody involved in this was coerced, threatened, or lied to (by me.) They chased a bag that became known to them because of sources I uncovered," he wrote in another tweet.

"They may have pointed fingers to get less jail time, but everyone knew the purpose of those trips from the jump."

Lead photo by


Latest Videos

Latest Videos

Join the conversation Load comments

Latest in Arts

Toronto legend who dresses in giant duck costume now has his own streetcar stop

Hot Docs cinema in Toronto is closing its doors as organization flounders

Glowing sculpture made of garbage will float in Toronto Harbour this summer

Toronto mad at Ticketmaster again after Chappelle shows sell out in seconds

Dave Chappelle just announced surprise shows next week at the Opera House in Toronto

Can subcultures survive in the internet age?

Residents pushing back against renovation of nearly 100-year-old Toronto landmark

Cirque du Soleil opens in Toronto this week with ECHO