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Youth-skewing media group Vice Media on Thursday faced allegations a former music editor in its Canadian headquarters recruited young reporters to be drug couriers as part of an international cocaine-smuggling ring.
The National Post newspaper cited allegations by current and former Vice employees that Yaroslav Pastukhov, as Vice Canada’s one-time music editor, tried to recruit them as international drug mules. Vice Media in a statement to The Hollywood Reporter said the media group moved quickly to fire Pastukhov in Feb. 2016 after an internal investigation prompted by employee concerns.
“Upon learning of these allegations in early 2016, Vice Canada took immediate and swift action to address these claims through our human resources department enlisting an employment law specialist to consult throughout and engaging an outside criminal law firm to conduct an investigation on our behalf and contact the Toronto Police Service,” Vice Media said.
Vice Media grew out of Montreal’s punk rock scene as a magazine to be reborn in post-9/11 New York City as the voice of an alternative hipster class. The media group today focuses on more issue-driven reporting and advertiser-friendly content after nabbing a number of big-name investors, including a $400 million stake from Disney.
None of the Vice employees contacted by The National Post took part in Pastukhov’s alleged drug smuggling ring. But a former roommate of Pastukhov, Jordan Gardner, and a New York-based model and three other Canadians were arrested by Australian authorities on December 22, 2015 for allegedly carrying illicit drugs from Las Vegas to Australia in their luggage.
Those arrests apparently raised flags at Vice Media in Toronto, prompting the internal investigation and Pastukhov’s dismissal. “Vice Canada takes allegations such as these very seriously as the safety of our employees is our first and foremost concern,” the media group said in its statement, as it pointed to an internal policy of zero tolerance for the use or sale of drugs on company premises.
The Canadian newspaper report said none of the allegations against Pastukhov have been proved in court, nor does The National Post know of any criminal charges or police investigations into his alleged drug smuggling activities.
Pastukhov refused comment when contacted by the Canadian newspaper as part of its investigation.
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