Revelations that Aiden Pleterski, Canada’s apparently self-coronated 23-year-old "Crypto King," was allegedly kidnapped and tortured over the course of three days last year made headlines all around the world.
The story of the sordid ordeal appears to be solely based on what the "Crypto King" told his father, Dragan Pleterski, and supposed “mentor” and landlord, real estate entrepreneur Sandeep Gupta, and in turn what they told bankruptcy officials who are trying to uncover what happened to the CAD $41.5 million (U.S. $30.5 million) investors gave the young crypto trader. What they told those officials only became public knowledge a few days ago.
Media reports were quick to latch onto some of the more stunning details emerging from the 700-plus pages of court documents; colorful specifics like kidnappers allegedly tortured Pleterski and demanded $3 million before releasing him without receiving any money, or that Pleterski funded his lavish lifestyle by spending nearly 40% of the money he raised — a total of $15.9 million — on private jet travel, luxury vacations and a stable of exotic cars, including Lamborghinis and McLarens. He also invested less than 2% of the capital he took from investors, the documents said.
But a closer look at the documents, which cover months of examinations and court proceedings, reveals details that raise several questions with regard to the kidnapping claims, the curious nature of his relationship with Gupta and the role his parents played in his alleged operation.
The following details come from court documents filed by the trustee in Pleterski’s bankruptcy proceedings, a process that began months before the alleged kidnapping.
To this point it appears the only evidence that exists corroborating Pleterski’s assertion that he was kidnapped in early December is what he told the police and calls he made to Gupta. Pleterski once rented property from Gupta, including a multi-million dollar mansion for $45,000 a month, according to local news reports.
Gupta said he contacted Toronto police after he began receiving calls from Pleterski asking for help, saying he’d been kidnapped and needed money. Gupta told the bankruptcy examiner he proceeded to speak with Pleterski several times over the course of his alleged kidnapping — with officers present at his house and on the line after the initial phone call — but only once did he remember hearing another voice in the background. The rest of the time when Pleterski called it appeared he was alone, Gupta said.
Police have been tight lipped about the alleged crime. Last week, Canadian TV reported that a “spokesperson for Toronto police … could not confirm any information that would identify a victim or witness in relation to the investigation.” The Toronto police declined to comment for this story on multiple occasions.
In his interview for the bankruptcy proceedings, Gupta also tried to explain why Pleterski called him. “I'm the only person who has the background with financial strength … [I was] trying to help him so that he wouldn't be harmed or killed,” Gupta said.
Gupta said Pleterski also told him: “I'm kidnapped. I'm with some bad people right now. They need $3 million. I have nobody else to call. My parents don't have that type of money, and you're the only person who can help me.”
Although Gupta alerted the police of the kidnapping, he admitted to the bankruptcy officials he never intended to help Pleterski. He said he cooperated with police — at one point they discussed setting up "a little sting meeting" — and tried to buy time by telling Pleterski it would take a while to arrange any money.
“Obviously, in the back of my head, I'm not paying out any money, but I was trying to — we were trying to play to try to help him so that he doesn't get harmed,” Gupta said.
Both Gupta and Dragan Pleterski said Aiden Pleterski spoke to the police after being released from his captors, the documents said. The court documents state that police talked to the bankruptcy trustee about the alleged kidnapping, but the department "was unable to share any information."
Pleterski’s relationship with Gupta is multifaceted. Besides the “mentor” relationship Aiden Pleterski described, and the rental of property, as of last month, Pleterski was still living in one of Gupta’s properties despite not paying rent for nearly eight months. Last year, Pleterski gave his McLaren Senna — a car worth nearly $1 million — to Gupta’s company as collateral for rental payments. Later, in June, Pleterski transferred ownership of the car to Gupta’s company.
Finally, according to court documents, around the time that Pleterski’s bankruptcy proceedings began last year Gupta not only had the McLaren, but was also “in possession of several of Pleterski’s vehicles including … a Lamborghini Huracan Performante, an Audi R8 Spyder, a Ferrari 488 Pista … a Lamborghini Aventador SVJ, and a BMW i8.”
Before Gupta discussed the alleged kidnapping with bankruptcy officials, in December, Pleterski’s father Dragan Pleterski offered his own limited account of what happened. Unlike Gupta, who said the kidnapping lasted several days, Dragan said his son told him he was held captive "approximately two to three days."
Examiner: Have you spoken with Aiden about the kidnapping?
Dragan Pleterski: Yes.
Examiner: What did he tell you?
DP: He got kidnapped.
Examiner: Did he tell you anything else?
DP: Do you want me to get into a three-and-a-half hour story?
Dragan explained what his son had told him about the alleged ordeal, which wasn’t much. He said his son told him that he had been held for about three days, during which he was driven around “Southern Ontario” while being tortured. No details of the alleged torture appear in the court documents. Dragan Pleterski said when his son was finally let go he was told “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.”
'Call the police'
Later in his examination, when pressed for more details regarding the kidnapping, Dragan did his best to close the door on the subject once and for all.
“If you really want to know anything about the kidnapping thing, call the police,” he said. “I'm sorry. But that's a little bit of a touchy subject for me, and that has nothing to do with [the bankruptcy] as far as I'm concerned, so please move on.”
Lawyers for Aiden Pleterski, his parents Dragan and Kathy Pleterski and Sandeep Gupta did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
Besides the seemingly gruff posture Dragan Pleterski took with bankruptcy officials during his December examination, transcripts from the court documents reveal other curious details.
The Pleterskis gave their twenty-something son tens of thousands of dollars to invest. Aiden Pleterski deposited more than $3 million in cash into their account and bought them luxury cars, including a Bentley for his father. And, at least according to the bankruptcy documents, the parents never seemed to question their son’s success.
According to Pleterski’s mother, Kathy, her son began trading during the pandemic in 2020, when Pleterski was likely 21 years old. About a year and a half later, Pleterski bought his father the Bentley, worth more than $200,000.
$50,000 and an E-Tron
When Kathy was asked in December if she realized her son had been accepting millions of dollars from potential investors, she said she “did not realize it was in that high of an amount.” The court documents suggest Kathy was not deeply involved in her son’s business. She did, however, accept $50,000 in cash and an Audi E-tron, according to the documents. An Audi E-tron costs about $70,000.
“She was driving a … Honda minivan that was on the brink of breaking down, so she was in need of a new vehicle,” Aiden Pleterski said during his examination last November, before the alleged kidnapping.
It appears, Pleterski’s parents were supportive of their son’s endeavors and desire to invest. In total they gave him $58,000, which was repaid.
The lines between business and family, however, appear to be blurred. Prior to his alleged exploits, Pleterski’s parents had set up a student account for their son, an account they had access to. It appears Pleterski sometimes used that account for his business dealings and would direct money to other people through it, with his father’s help.
Examiner: So you said that there were some transfers that were from the student account to one of your accounts for the purpose of directing the funds elsewhere?
Dragan Pleterski: Yes.
Examiner: And was that for the purpose of sending that money to investors?
DP: I don't know.
Examiner: What's your understanding of what that purpose was?
DP: There was times when he would be, for whatever reason, said he could not get to the bank, and needed to send money somewhere, and asked if I could do it for him, "him" being my son, and believe understanding or thinking I know exactly that the business he was in, I agreed to it.
Examiner: So you didn't know who the money was for, you just were following Aiden's instructions?
DP: Yes. There were times when the money was to an individual name, which I have no idea who they were; there were times when the money was sent to a company. So it would vary.
Examiner: And Aiden would tell you essentially what to do?
Dragan — a retired small business owner who appears to have spent decades installing new kitchens — also said during his interview he couldn’t recall whether he had ever taken money given to his son by investors to then deposit in Pleterksi’s student account. In his examination, however, Pleterski said sometimes he would arrange to have bank drafts from investors delivered to his father, who would then deposit into the student account.
While Dragan didn’t back up his son’s claims, he does recall receiving money from the student account he then used to buy a new home in Indiana.
Pending legal issues
For now it appears there is no criminal investigation into Pleterski’s alleged “Ponzi” scheme. When Toronto’s police department declined to comment for this story they didn't confirm or deny whether there is an ongoing criminal investigation of any nature related to Pleterski.
On the criminal front, Tanya Walker, one of the lawyers who sued Pleterski for misusing more than $4.5 million of her client Sacha Singh’s money, said perhaps those allegedly burned by the “Crypto King” aren’t eager to press charges.
“If you put yourself in the investors’ shoes I think your main concern is, can you give me my money back?” she said in an interview. “I can also see that if someone hasn’t paid you your money back, that person being imprisoned might not help you get your money back any quicker.” Walker's lawsuit is paused, she said, while the bankruptcy proceeds.
Walker also said that, while as a commercial litigator criminal law is not within her purview, news reports declaring Pleterski had been kidnapped didn’t strike her as odd.
“Given the amount of investors that invested funds with [Pleterski],” she said. “I’m not surprised that there is the belief that someone could have taken matters into their own hands and kidnapped him.”
© 2023 The Block. All Rights Reserved. This article is provided for informational purposes only. It is not offered or intended to be used as legal, tax, investment, financial, or other advice.