Australian Federal Police seize millions from the bank accounts of nine Russian business people

Nine Russian nationals used a Gold Coast ANZ bank to wire large sums of money from companies in Asia.image

Nine Russian nationals used a Gold Coast ANZ bank to wire large sums of money from companies in Asia. Photo: Glenn Hunt

The Gold Coast branch of the ANZ Bank sees its share of wealthy new customers, but few could match the smartly-dressed tourists with Russian accents who opened accounts in 2011.

Within days of setting up the accounts in the heart of Surfers Paradise, the money started rolling in in the form of six- or seven-figure wire transfers from companies in Asia.

First came several hundred thousand from an account in Hong Kong, then just weeks later another six-figure sum, then half a million from an account in China, then several more transfers. Eventually there was almost $29 million in accounts in the names of nine Russian nationals.

Late last year Federal Police moved in, raiding homes on the Gold Coast and taking action in Queensland’s supreme court to freeze the cash under money-laundering laws.

Police in the court argued that the Russians, from Irkutsk in Siberia, did not earn enough to justify the vast sums.

The Russians, who remain in Siberia, hit back, hiring their own lawyer and rejecting the allegations.

This week Fairfax Media has learnt some of the nine have been the subject of media reports in Russia linking them to alleged tax avoidance and failed companies. They are alleged to have been involved   in the jade mining industry in an area which has seen a series of violent robberies and deadly


The Russians have denied the allegations, with one of their number saying the group were only trying to close a deal in Queensland that would have involved the export of Australian powdered milk to Siberia.

And their Gold Coast-based tour guide, whose post box was used to receive correspondence for their ANZ bank accounts, says they were legitimate business people looking to invest and send their children to one of the Gold Coast’s top private schools.

The dispute provides a snapshot of the global movement of shadowy funds out of eastern Europe’s turbulent economy and the attractiveness of destinations such as the Gold Coast as a financial haven.

The first to arrive on the Gold Coast on December 30, 2010, was a party of five: Eduard Zelinskiy, Irina Strelnikov and Vladimir Strelnikov and Natalia Gudkova and Andrey Gudkov.

All five listed on their visa applications some connection with the Siberian-based Baikalkvartssamotsvety or Baikal Quartz Gemstones company, which mines precious and semi-precious stones west of Irkutsk.

All opened the accounts in about January 2011, then returned to Russia.

Two months later more Siberian associates with a connection to the mining company landed on the Gold Coast and made their way to the ANZ Bank to open accounts.

In March 2011 the quartz company’s commercial director, Eduard Karmadonov, 45, came for a visit. Police believe he earned about $24,879 a year but his ANZ account showed $12 million, while his wife Elena Karmadonova, 35, who accompanied him, finished up with $843,306 in her ANZ account.

Then there was the general director of the mining company, Sergey Kostyukov, 50, who visited about the same time and set up an account. Mr Kostyokov, who police believed earned $65,005 a year, eventually notched up about $2.9 million in his ANZ account.

Even the medical officer of the company, Galina Chuvasova, 49, tagged along for the trip and despite an annual income estimated by the police as being about $12,640, had $650,832 in her ANZ account.

Once on the Gold Coast, the Russians used the services of  tour guide Tamara Allnutt, who allowed them to use her post box to receive correspondence. She denies any impropriety and swears the group were legitimate business people.

“What we think is a lot of money to us is not necessarily so to them. Not every Russian businessman is a crook. Some are genuine people here to invest in the Gold Coast. They have businesses and they wanted to invest in Australia. They were more interested in dairy products.”

Visa debit charge records placed on the court record by the police reveal extraordinary expenditure overseas by Mr Karmadonov, who reportedly spent $1.008 million between March 2011 and September 2013, while his wife spent $189,759 between January 2012 and September 2013, all in exotic destinations throughout Europe and Asia.

Police in their legal action say they suspect the money is “the proceeds of an indictable offence or offences”.

But earlier this year Sydney lawyer Igor Kazagrandi in court documents said the respondents denied the money was the proceeds of unlawful activity.

Russian media have reported on some of the nine Siberians and there have also been reports of violent robberies at the Baikal Quartz mine and a deadly shooting nearby.

One online newspaper alleged Mr Kostyukov and Baikal Quartz Gemstones had been investigated for failing to pay taxes of about $300,000 and for fraudulently filing for bankruptcy.

Speaking from Irkutsk, Mr Kostyukov  denied any impropriety and said the group were in Australia to set up the dairy exports.

Asked about the quartz mining business, he declined to comment.

On Monday, in the Supreme Court as part of their action to seize the money, the Federal Police filed requests for subpoenas for two dairy products companies based in Brisbane.

An employee at one of the companies confirmed some Russians had been in touch to discuss a dairy products deal but he said he did not know anything about any subpoenas.

A spokesman for the ANZ Bank said they could not comment on customers. The Australian Federal Police declined to comment because the matter was before the court.

Further court hearings are expected before the end of the year.

Henry Sapiecha


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