Four men have been charged with the alleged kidnapping of Aiden Pleterski, the 24-year-old crypto investor who is facing bankruptcy proceedings after losing tens of millions of dollars’ worth of investor funds.
Together, the men face dozens of charges, including kidnapping for ransom, aggravated assault, discharging a firearm, forcible confinement and conspiracy to commit an indictable offence, according to court filings from earlier this month and a Monday news release from the Toronto Police Service.
Mr. Pleterski, who described himself as “Crypto King,” is embroiled in a controversial bankruptcy case, after having spent millions of investor dollars that he promised to invest through his company, AP Private Equity Limited. Mr. Pleterski, who discovered bitcoin through video games, promised some investors a return of 10 per cent to 20 per cent a week, according to a 750-page legal document filed as part of the bankruptcy proceeding.
Those charged are Akil Heywood, 39, Deren Akyeam-Pong, 24, and Tyler Fast, 37, all of Toronto, and Rakeem Henry, 24, of London, Ont.
A video obtained by the CBC on Monday shows Mr. Pleterski, allegedly while in captivity, beaten and bruised, apologizing to investors for having lost their money.
“I know some people’s lives have been ruined by this,” Mr. Pleterski, seen in a red hoodie, said in the video. “I’m going to live on the bare minimum until every last soul is paid back.”
According to the bankruptcy filings, Mr. Pleterski collected $41.5-million from investors, promising to invest in crypto funds, but only actually invested less than 2 per cent of that amount. Instead, he spent $15.9-million of the money he raised from investors – or 38 per cent – on his personal lifestyle, including the purchase of exotic vehicles, renting private jets, and elaborate vacations, which he posted widely on social media.
The details of the kidnapping were included in the bankruptcy documents, recounted through interviews with Mr. Pleterski, his father and his former landlord.
Dragan Pleterski told lawyers his son was kidnapped by unnamed people around Dec. 5, 2022, “tortured,” allowed to make calls to select people only and driven to various locations around Toronto.
“Approximately two to three days later, he was released with the threat that he needed to come up with some money fast, and if he had went to the police, that there would be a lot more trouble,” Dragan Pleterski said. As part of the cross-examination, he admitted he had given his son $58,000 to invest in crypto assets and foreign exchange markets.
Aiden Pleterski’s former landlord, Sandeep Gupta, said he had been contacted while Mr. Pleterski was in captivity, and that Mr. Pleterski was asking for $3-million to pay his kidnappers.
Mr. Heywood, among those arrested for the alleged kidnapping, has also been charged with two counts of extortion, according to court documents. On Dec. 15, Mr. Heywood allegedly threatened Mr. Gupta and Grant Thornton bankruptcy trustee Rob Stelzer, asking each for $2-million in cryptocurrency. Grant Thornton is the accounting firm acting as trustee for Mr. Pleterski’s bankruptcy.
In an interview as part of the bankruptcy proceedings, recorded more than two weeks before he was allegedly kidnapped, Mr. Pleterski described being threatened by Mr. Heywood, who had previously given him $740,000 to invest. Mr. Heywood had been named as one of five inspectors in the bankruptcy on behalf of other creditors. A bankruptcy inspector must approve major decisions made by the trustee.
“Akil is still, by the way, uttering threats, and very dangerous violent threats, to me over Instagram comment sections on my posts and text messages,” Mr. Pleterski said on Nov. 24, 2022.
Mr. Pleterski’s lawyer did not respond to The Globe and Mail’s request for comment, and Mr. Heywood could not be reached for comment.