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PRODUCTION

SCRIPT

 

 

Four Corners

INTERNATIONAL EDITION

2021

Putin's Patriots

47 mins 35 secs

 

 

 

 

©2021

ABC Ultimo Centre

700 Harris Street Ultimo

NSW 2007 Australia

 

GPO Box 9994

Sydney

NSW 2001 Australia

Phone : 61 2 8333 3314

e-mail :  kimpton.scott@abc.net.au

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Precis

“Our job as Russian patriots…is to be mobilised and be active in defending Russia.” Russian patriotic group leader

On a Sunday morning in Australia, a pseudo military group strides through a capital city carrying portraits of their hero, Russian president Vladimir Putin. Many are dressed in army fatigues. They are there to stare down the protestors who have come out to condemn the jailing of Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and Putin’s brutal crackdown on his supporters. 

“Australian laws are very, very relaxed. I could never imagine doing this in other countries…Australia is a very good place if you want to promote a foreign agenda.” Russian patriotic group leader

The self-described defenders of Russia are determined to shut down anti-Putin sentiment in Australia as part of a propaganda war to remind the world that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a force to the reckoned with.

“Putin sees such organisations as a significant asset in pursuing his particular goals…Russia makes no bones about it.”  Retired Australian diplomat and intelligence analyst

On Monday, Four Corners investigates the rise of a cluster of pro-Moscow organisations with ties to the Kremlin, establishing chapters in Australia.

“The fact of the matter is that Russia is aware of what's going on in Australia and certainly does not regard it as insignificant.”  Russia analyst

Experts tell the program that Russia has kept a close eye on Australia following the collapse in relations between the two nations in 2014, when Australia took a vocal stance on the international stage following Russia’s military incursion into Ukraine and the downing of Malaysian Airlines flight MH17, angering the Kremlin.

“We had the Australian (Government) very much pushing for independent investigations for justice to be done. And that made, in a way, Australia a problem for the Kremlin. And the Kremlin's natural response is, when it sees a problem, it makes problems back in return.”  Strategic affairs analyst

While Putin supporters try to shut down critics, Four Corners has investigated how Australia has become a safe haven for tainted cash linked to Russian politicians and criminals.

“Australia is a great place to keep money. It is a democracy with a stable banking system and criminals love democracies with stable banking systems.”  Financial crimes investigator

In a joint investigation with Russian and eastern European financial crimes activists, Four Corners has uncovered how some of this money has made it onto Australian shores.

“Australian authorities should really focus on this type of criminal behaviour…We've only seen the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot more going on, and this is very, very worrying.”  Financial crimes investigator

Some, with close ties to the Russian President himself, have sought to use their investments in Australia as a source of leverage in international disputes.

“While it is not new for lobbyists to influence members of government, it is quite extraordinary.”  Transparency activist

In this ground breaking Four Corners those who know Russia well say Australia needs to watch Russia closely.

“By ignoring Russia's weight, Russia's influence and Russia's international status, we allow ourselves to be caught off guard every time Russia can pull the card out of its sleeve and- and wants to play a game against Australia.”   Russia strategic affairs analyst

 

Night Wolves bikers prepare for ride

Music

00:11

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: On a crisp Saturday morning in Sydney’s south, a group of bikers is preparing for a ride. They’re members of a pro-Russia club called the Night Wolves. Their nickname is “Putin’s Angels”.

00:22

Sasha 100%

SASHA DUGANOV, VICE PRESIDENT, NIGHT WOLVES AUSTRALIA: We join because of the bikes. You obviously can’t join the club unless you own a bike, that’s the first thing.

00:45

Bikers mount flags on bikes

We’ve all got common interest. So we don’t do drugs, we don’t do weapons, we don’t do any of that stuff. We just want to show

00:49

Sasha 100%

the world, Russia, whatever you want to call it, that Russia has a massive history and we are trying to keep it up.

00:57

Night Wolves bikers prepare for ride

Music

01:03

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: The Night Wolves are among an international network of patriots determined to remind the world that Vladimir Putin’s Russia is a force to the reckoned with.

01:06

 

Music

01:16

Night Wolves start ride

KYLE WILSON, FORMER AUSTRALIAN DIPLOMAT AND RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Putin sees such organisations as a significant asset in pursuing his particular goals, whether they be domestic goals or foreign policy goals. You can use

01:21

Wilson 100%

the Russian diaspora, the Russian community, to seek to build your influence, and then use that influence, it is to be hoped, to shift Australia's policies. Russia makes no bones about it.

01:36

Russia. Pro-democracy protestors

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: In Russia, Putin has launched a brutal crackdown to crush pro-democracy protesters.

01:50

Australia. Pro-Putin rally.

While in Australia, his supporters are determined to shout down Putin’s critics.

02:02

Simeon at rally

SIMEON BOIKOV: We’re here with our president Vladimir Putin, supporting the president. Supporting Vladimir Putin against these opposition scum.

02:09

Putin in congress

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Why would Russia care about Australia?

02:18

 

MARK GALEOTTI, SNR ASSOC FELLOW, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: Russia cares about Australia because Russia cares about everywhere.

02:22

Galeotti 100%

The fact of the matter is that Russia is aware of what's going on in Australia and certainly does not regard it as insignificant.

02:25

Australia, Gold Coast skyline

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Australia has also become a safe haven for rivers of dirty money flowing out of Putin’s corrupt regime.

02:31

Radu 100%

PAUL RADU, ORGANISED CRIME AND CORRUPTION REPORTING PROJECT: Australia is a great place to keep money.

02:41

 

It is a democracy with a stable banking system and criminals love democracies with stable banking systems. This is why Australia is a great destination for illicit funds.

02:46

Sydney Harbour GVs

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Tonight, on Four Corners, we investigate Russian money and influence in Australia. 

02:59

Nicholls to camera. Super:
SEAN NICHOLLS

We track the tainted cash from Russian criminals and politicians that has washed up on our shore. We reveal how one of Vladimir Putin’s closest allies lobbied Australia to help lift US sanctions from his business interests and how a propaganda war is being waged right here to help further the Kremlin’s global agenda.

03:06

GFX Title:
PUTIN'S PATRIOTS

Music

03:26

Night Wolves bikers ride

 

03:39

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: The New South Wales chapter of the Night Wolves is putting on a proud show of Russian patriotism.

03:57

 

They are heading for a cenotaph on Sydney’s northern beaches to celebrate a famous Russian battle, known as the Attack of the Dead.

04:06

 

Music

04:14

 

VLADIMIR SIMONIAN, PRESIDENT, NIGHT WOLVES AUSTRALIA: The Night Wolves is a patriotic club

04:19

Vladimir 100%. Super:
VLADIMIR SIMONIAN
President, Night Wolves Australia

and we organise events to commemorate World War One, World War Two, the victims who died in all these wars, and that is what unites us.

04:22

Night Wolves ride

ALEXEY MURAVIEV, RUSSIA STRATEGIC AFFAIRS ANALYST, CURTIN UNIVERSITY: The Night Wolves are probably the most well organised and best branded Russian biker organisation. The current strength of the organisation is about 5,000 active members.

04:39

Muraviev 100%

It has chapters all across Russia, but also spread into the former Soviet space,

04:57

Super:
ALEXEY MURAVIEV
Russia strategic affairs analyst, Curtin University

as well as into Europe, as well as other parts of the world, which now includes Australia.

05:03

Biker hands out flowers to members at cenotaph

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: The Australian chapter was founded in 2015; there are now members in New South Wales, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia.

05:10

 

ALEXEY MURAVIEV, RUSSIA STRATEGIC AFFAIRS ANALYST, CURTIN UNIVERSITY: Publicly, they’re doing a whole range of activities, from organising Christmas shows for disadvantaged children, to joy bike rides, to what they describe as patriotic rides normally associated with commemorating major historical milestones.

 

 

05:30

Muraviev 100%

But more recently, certainly over the past seven or eight years, they began really positioning themselves as public supporters of the current course of the Russian government.

05:49

Putin on motorbike with Night Wolves members

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: The club’s most famous supporter is Vladimir Putin.

06:04

Russian Night Wolves training video. Super:
Promotional video

 

06:18

 

The Russian Night Wolves act as a proxy army for the Kremlin.

06:24

 

They promote their expertise in military and combat tactics.

06:32

 

The Night Wolves are sanctioned by the United States for fighting with the pro-Russian forces in Ukraine.

06:47

Still. Putin

MARK GALEOTTI, SNR ASSOC FELLOW, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: The Kremlin have this concept of the Russkiy Mir, the Russian World.

06:57

Galeotti 100%

Essentially, wherever there are ethnic Russians, then Moscow needs to have some kind of representation,

07:03

Super:
MARK GALEOTTI
Snr Assoc Fellow, Royal United Services Institute

and so what we tend to find is wherever you have any kind of flows of Russians, whether individuals or rich Russians, then with them move a whole variety of different organisations.

07:09

 

Although on the whole, this is meant to be essentially, a, simply an expression of cultural identity more than anything else, it doesn't mean that it cannot then be activated at some point, to precisely be used for some kind of influence operation or similar.

07:22

Sydney Harbour GVs/Brass band plays at Cenotaph

[Brass band plays]

07:36

Double Headed Eagle society event

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: The shores of Sydney Harbour seem an unlikely setting for a celebration of Russian nationalism. Today’s event is organised by a pro-Putin group called the Double Headed Eagle society.

07:54

Simeon greets consul-general

Among the guests is the Russian consul-general in Sydney.

08:15

Simeon addresses crowd

The host is 31-year-old Sydneysider Simeon Boikov, the Australian born son of a Russian orthodox priest. He is also the leader of the Australian Cossack society, which styles itself as a military unit.

08:24

 

"What are the Cossacks in Australia here to do and to achieve?"

06:48

Simeon 100%

SIMEON BOIKOV, LEADER AUSTRALIAN COSSACKS: The purpose of the Cossacks in Australia is to preserve Cossack traditions, culture, values, and also to promote pro-Russian sentiment and I've been accused of that, but I'll say it on camera. We have no problems of admitting that we are pro-Russian.

08:52

Australian Cossacks meeting

Music

09:05

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Boikov leads a small group of dedicated Australian Cossacks.

09:12

 

Boikov’s leadership has been controversial. At this meeting, filmed by the Cossacks and posted on YouTube, he is reappointed for five years after fighting off an attempt to remove him.

 

09:18

 

Simeon: "Gentlemen Cossacks thank you for your trust."

Chairman: "But that is subject to your good behaviour."

Simeon: "Of course."

SIMEON BOIKOV, LEADER AUSTRALIAN COSSACKS: So our job as Russian patriots,

09:40

Simeon 100%. Super:
SIMEON BOIKOV
Leader, Australian Cossacks

and this is what I call up on my compatriots to do all the time, is to be mobilised and be active in defending Russia.

10:00

Simeon with Cossack

Some people, they think, "Oh, well, assimilation and so forth, and we can't do much to help Russia."

10:06

Simeon 100%

We believe that it's not enough just to be Russian, you must support Russia. You must actively support Russia and you should defend Russia.

10:11

Video. Australian Cossacks training in Russia

Music

10:17

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Boikov has led groups of Australian Cossacks to Russia where they fired guns and visited a military training facility.

10:23

 

Music

10:30

GFX over Boikov at demonstration. On screen text:
"...we have a unique opportunity to support Russia from within an enemy state.”

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: In 2018, Simeon Boikov told a Russian media outlet "...we have a unique opportunity to support Russia from within an enemy state.”  He was referring to Australia. He said Cossacks in Australia could

 

 

10:40

On screen text:  “...pursue a pro-Russian position, lobby politicians and members of parliament, oppose anyone who lies about Russia, attacks Russia or imposes sanctions. Basically, they can wage an information war.”

“...pursue a pro-Russian position, lobby politicians and members of parliament, oppose anyone who lies about Russia, attacks Russia or imposes sanctions. Basically, they can wage an information war.”

10:57

Boikov 100%

"Why do you regard Australia as an enemy state?"

11:13

 

SIMEON BOIKOV, LEADER AUSTRALIAN COSSACKS: No, Australia in this context, a state which is placing sanctions against Russia and behaving in an anti-Russian manner, in that way could be perceived that the activities are not the activities of an ally.

11:16

 

The main thing to know is we're not against Australia at all. We love Australia. We will defend Australia and we'll try to defend it and we want to facilitate the rehabilitation of Australian relations with Russia, which is very important.

11:31

File footage. Russian military incursion into Ukraine

Music

11:43

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Australia’s relationship with Russia collapsed in 2014 after the Russian military incursion into Ukraine.

11:52

File footage. Crashed Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17

Music

12:06

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER:  Pro-Russian separatists shot down Malaysia Airlines Flight MH17 killing 283 passengers; 38 were Australians.

12:21

Abbott file footage. Super:
October 2014
TONY ABBOTT
Prime Minister

TONY ABBOTT, PRIME MINISTER (OCT 2014): I am going to shirtfront Vladimir Putin, you bet you are. You bet I am. I am going to say to Mr Putin, Australians were murdered. They were murdered by Russian backed rebels using Russian supplied equipment. We are very unhappy about this.

12:40

Galeotti 100%. Super:
MARK GALEOTTI
Snr Assoc Fellow, Royal United Services Institute

MARK GALEOTTI, SNR ASSOC FELLOW, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: I mean, up to this point, Russian-Australians had very much been about trade and cultural contact. Suddenly it became much, much more conflictual, and suddenly we had the Australian very much pushing for independent investigations for justice to be done and that made, in a way, Australia a problem for the Kremlin. And the Kremlin's natural response is, when it sees a problem, it makes problems back in return.

1:05

Photos. Boikov at pro-Putin rally

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: When protestors condemned Putin over MH17 during the 2014 G20 meeting in Brisbane, Australian Cossack Simeon Boikov led a counter rally defending the Russian president.

13:32

 

Music

13:48

Boikov driving

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Four Corners has learned Australian authorities were monitoring Boikov over concerns he may have raised money for separatists in Ukraine and may have travelled to the conflict himself.

13:54

Boikov 100%

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Do you deny it?

SIMEON BOIKOV LEADER AUSTRALIAN COSSACKS: Of course, I deny travelling to Ukraine. I haven't been to Ukraine since the beginning of the war. I went to Ukraine before the war. I've been to Western Ukraine, Kiev.

14:10

Kremlin

 Music

14:25

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: In 2015 Boikov went to Russia

14:34

Photo. Boikov beside car in Russia/Boikov with Strelkov

to meet a notorious military separatist leader blamed for MH17 – known as Strelkov.

"At this time, Strelkov was being accused of direct involvement in the downing of MH17.

14:36

Boikov 100%

Why did you think it was appropriate to go and visit him?"

SIMEON BOIKOV LEADER AUSTRALIAN COSSACKS: Igor Strelkov is a hero of Novorossiya.

14:57

 

He didn't shoot down MH17, neither did anyone on the Russian side.  MH17 was shut down by Ukraine, over Ukrainian territory in Ukrainian airspace. Had nothing to do with Russia. Very simple.

15:03

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Boikov’s denial of Russia’s guilt ignores the overwhelming evidence.

15:21

 

"In fact, Strelkov and three others, two Russians, one Ukrainian, are currently on trial in the Netherlands for this very crime."

SIMEON BOIKOV, LEADER AUSTRALIAN COSSACKS: In absentia. Well, they can make whatever kangaroo court they like. If we shot the plane down, I'm sure we would have admitted it.

 

 

 

 

 

15:27

Boikov drives to Ukrainian church

 SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Boikov and his fellow Cossacks have also tried to silence the local Ukrainian community.

SIMEON BOIKOV: "We heard there was an event going on here, something to do with Crimea."

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: In this video, Boikov taunts parishioners and their priest outside a Ukrainian church in Sydney.

15:48

 

SIMEON BOIKOV: "I want to ask you a question. Why do you have Crimea is Ukrainian on your church? Everyone knows it's Russian."

Man: "Everyone knows it's Russian, it was and will be and has ever been.

16:11

Man at church with Boikov and Simonian

The Russians are once again victorious. Crimea is Russian. Crimea is ours."

16:22

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Also present is Vladimir Simonian, the president of the Night Wolves Australia motorcycle club.

"Some would see that as intimidation."

16:26

 

SIMEON BOIKOV LEADER, AUSTRALIAN COSSACKS: Well, there's a fine line.  If we wanted to, we could have done something much worse,

16:40

Boikov 100%. Super:
SIMEON BOIKOV
Leader, Australian Cossacks

but we wouldn't do that, because we don't promote breaking the law, we don't promote radicalism, we don't promote anything like that. That's un-Australian, but it's good to remind other people in our physical presence, just people seeing the fact that Cossacks are there and so forth is enough to discourage anti-Russian activities and I've noticed that.

16:44

Newspaper production/ Boikov at Russian Frontier printing

Music

17:11

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Boikov spreads his relentlessly pro-Russian views in the newspaper he founded called Russian Frontier.

17:21

 

SIMEON BOIKOV, LEADER AUSTRALIAN COSSACKS: The Russian Frontier newspaper in Australia is a newspaper which counters the anti-Russian hysteria.  People read the newspaper and they're shocked to realise, "Oh, that's a different side to the story."

17:30

 

The Western press is very anti-Russian, so this is a good alternative.

17:41

Boikov 100%

Putin has a lot of power in the Kremlin, the Russian government has a lot of power and it has a very large armed forces, but they can't do certain things, which we can help them do, which is explain, for example, to local people in the West that Russia is not involved in hacking, that Russia didn't poison these people, Russia didn't shoot down this plane, Russia didn't, you know, everything that they would accuse us of constantly.

17:51

Boikov driving. Takes Russian Frontier to consulate

Music

18:18

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Russian Frontier doesn’t just deliver pro-Russian news, it’s also used to settle scores.

18:33

Wilson walking at lake, Canberra

Last year, former Australian diplomat and Russia intelligence analyst, Kyle Wilson, become a target of Russian Frontier.

KYLE WILSON, FORMER AUSTRALIAN DIPLOMAT AND RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Its content tends to be extremist.

18:42

Wilson 100%

It makes a practise of identifying people who disagree with it as enemies. It calls them enemies of Russia.

18:58

Wilson walking at lake, Canberra

 

19:08

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Wilson had written about Boikov’s pro-Russian influence activities in Australia, infuriating Boikov.

19:12

Boikov with newspaper

SIMEON BOIKOV: "This article is particularly interesting; I recommend everyone to read it."

19:19

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: The next edition of Russian Frontier branded Wilson’s article “racist” and called him “an anti-Russian conspiracy theorist.”

19:27

Social media video. Boikov with newspaper

In a video posted to social media, Boikov joked about a meme he’d published of Putin with the line - “Funny guy, I kill you last” next to a photo of Wilson.

SIMEON BOIKOV: “Funny guy I kill you last!"  [laughs] I hope we will not be arrested for this edition.

KYLE WILSON, FORMER AUSTRALIAN DIPLOMAT AND RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: The abuse,

19:35

Wilson 100%. Super:
KYLE WILSON
Fmr Australian diplomat and Russia intelligence analyst

the vituperation, the questioning of my motives, the impugning of my integrity by implying that I had been commissioned to write the article and had been paid by someone. Well, these are familiar tactics, as you know, protestors in Russia who are sometimes set upon by Cossacks, with their whips.

19:55

Boikov 100%

SIMEON BOIKOV LEADER AUSTRALIAN COSSACKS: I'm not going to tolerate people like Kyle Wilson bashing our community, writing hysterical articles against Russia. We have a newspaper, and we'll use that to defend Russian interests and to publicly criticise and rebuff the outrageous allegations that Kyle Wilson makes.

20:21

Boikov and Malinovskiy

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Simeon Boikov’s partner in the newspaper is Russian national Valeriy Malinovskiy. Malinovskiy is also the Chairman of the Australian branch of the Double Headed Eagle Society, a pro-Putin, Russian nationalist group. Boikov is his deputy.

20:40

Malinovskiy 100%

VALERIY MALINOVSKIY CHAIRMAN, DOUBLE HEADED EAGLE SOCIETY AUSTRALIA: The agenda of our branch is to promote Russian culture, to educate people, to dismay this misconception about Russia.

20:59

Super:
VALERIY MALONOVSKIY
Chairman, Double Headed Eagle Society Australia

30 million Russians live overseas, it's 20 per cent of the whole population and if somehow, we can talk to them, educate them again, to promote our culture, it will be very valuable for the country.

21:10 

Wilson 100%

KYLE WILSON, FORMER AUSTRALIAN DIPLOMAT AND RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: So, the two headed eagle society, we are told, is also about the propagation of Russian values, but it's particularly about re-educating Russians abroad so that they have what they call the correct view of Russian history, that is, righting the wrong, which is the distortion of Russian history outside Russia, but also inside Russia.

21:28

Boikov and Malinovskiy

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Last year, Boikov and Malinovsky were appointed to their positions by the then head of the Double Headed Eagle Society in Russia,

21:55

GFX: Photo Leonid Reshetnikov

Leonid Reshetnikov, a former Russian spy.

22:03

Photo. Reshetnikov

Reshetnikov and the Russian branch of the society have been accused of involvement in espionage activities in Eastern Europe.

22:09

Wilson 100%

KYLE WILSON, FORMER AUSTRALIAN DIPLOMAT AND RUSSIAN INTELLIGENCE ANALYST: Now, Leonid Reshetnikov was a general in the KGB.

22:19

Photo. Reshetnikov with Putin

He's now purported to be retired, but Mr Putin has said that there's no such thing as a retired KGB officer.

22:23

Wilson 100%

Now that's the context, it seems to me in which one should view what we're seeing in Australia, the prosecution of that information war in Australia, clearly designed to try to get the Australian government to change its policies towards reforming those policies, so that they would be perceived as serving Russia's interests and not being hostile to Russia.

22:31

Muraviev 100%. Super:
ALEXEY MURAVIEV
Russia strategic affairs analyst, Curtin University

ALEXEY MURAVIEV, RUSSIA STRATEGIC AFFAIRS ANALYST, CURTIN UNIVERSITY: We need to recognise that Russia doesn't look at Australia as a friendly country.  Russia looks at Australia through the prism of our security and defence alliance with the United States.

22:59

 

By ignoring Russia's weight, Russia's influence and Russia's international status, we allow ourselves to be caught off guard every time Russia can pull the card out of its sleeve and wants to play a game against Australia.

23:11

Kremlin GV

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Russia’s interest in Australia is not just political. Australia has become an attractive destination for large sums of Russian cash.

23:28

Nicholls to camera

Four Corners has been working with international anti-corruption organisations to investigate millions of dollars in allegedly dirty Russian money stashed here and laundered through Australian banks and businesses.

23:45

Radu 100%. Super:
PAUL RADU
Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project

PAUL RADU, ORGANISED CRIME AND CORRUPTION REPORTING PROJECT: Australia is a great place to keep money.

23:58

 

It is a democracy with a stable banking system and criminals love democracies with stable banking systems and criminals love democracies with stable banks systems.

24:04

 

This is why Australia is a great destination for illicit funds.

24:12

Radu walking

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Paul Radu is the co-founder of the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a group of investigators based in eastern Europe.

24:17

GVs European town

In 2014, his organisation used an enormous leak of banking and company records to expose one of the largest ever global money laundering schemes. They dubbed it “the Russian Laundromat”.

24:30

Radu 100%

PAUL RADU, ORGANISED CRIME AND CORRUPTION REPORTING PROJECT: In the case of the Russian Laundromat, more than 20 billion US dollars left Russia, entered bank accounts in one bank in the Republic of Moldova and from these bank accounts in the Republic of Moldova, they went sideways. They went, most of the money, went to a bank in the European Union in Latvia called Trasta Komercbanka and from there, through some of the world's largest banks, ended up everywhere, including in Australia.

 

 

 

24:49

Australia. Umina beach

Music

25:23

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: The leak revealed some of that money was funnelled to a company based in the tiny New South Wales coastal town of Umina beach.

25:27

House exterior

This is the headquarters of Gemini Packaging, a business established by a Russian born businesswoman to sell food and drink containers to Russia, Moldova and other countries.

25:38

Nicholls to camera

The leaked documents show Gemini Packaging received more than three quarters of a million dollars from one bank and two shell companies central to the Russian Laundromat scheme. The payments were listed as being for construction materials, but when we asked the Australian director about the data, she said she didn’t recognise the company names and had no record of the transactions.

25:53

Radu 100%

PAUL RADU, ORGANISED CRIME AND CORRUPTION REPORTING PROJECT: Quite a few of the companies that we spoke with said the same, that they were not aware of the origin of the money that they, they didn't know who was making the payment and in fact, what we've seen is that sometimes they contracted services, but then the money would be paid by these offshore types of companies. At the receiving end, the company said, "Well, we don't know why they chose to pay us in that particular way."

26:16

Kremlin/Moscow GVs

Music

26:44

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: There is an estimated 1 trillion dollars in “dark” Russian money hidden offshore.

26:59

Shumanov into subway

Part of Ilya Shumanov’s job at Transparency International is to track it down.

27:05

 

Four Corners has been working with him to investigate the flow of some of this tainted cash into Australia.

27:13

 

Music

27:19

 

ILYA SHUMANOV, DIRECTOR, TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL RUSSIA: Thousands of Russian officials, and oligarchs, they kept their money not in Russia but abroad, for the safe reasons, because they are not sure about stability of Russian political and economical system.

27:27

Shumanov 100%. Super:
ILYA SHUMANOV
Director, Transparency International Russia

That's why they would like to save their money in some financial sectors, not in Russia, but in other territories.

27:40

Brisbane airport. Russian arrivals. Super:
Reconstruction

Music

27:50

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: On March 5, 2013, five Russians flew into Brisbane airport. They said they were here for a holiday. They were part of a larger group of nine Russians who had made multiple visits to Queensland since 2010.

ILYA SHUMANOV, DIRECTOR, TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL RUSSIA: These guys who came to Australia a few times,

27:57

Shumanov 100%

they're not very higher rank Russian businessmen, yeah?  It looks like that they have some businesses in Russia. But it's not big business, let's say.

28:24

Reconstruction. Driving along waterfront, Gold Coast

Music

28:34

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: The Russians were involved in two Siberian businesses, an ice cream factory and a precious gem company.

28:38

Reconstruction. Bank/

During their visits, they opened 24 accounts at this one Surfer’s Paradise branch, and over three years more than $29 million was deposited into them.

28:46

Chaikin 100%. Super:
DR DAVID CHAIKIN
Lecturer, transnational crime, University of Sydney

DR DAVID CHAIKIN, LECTURER, TRANSNATIONAL CRIME, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY: The Russians obtained debit cards on those bank accounts, and they used those debit cards to fund luxury holidays, designer clothes, expensive jewellery.

28:59

 

The Australian Federal Police carried out a six-month investigation and with the material they had, they sought successfully to freeze those bank accounts in Queensland.

29:14

GFX AFP statement. On screen text:
“as virtual piggy banks for very large amounts of money”

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: In court, the Australian Federal Police said they believed the cash was the proceeds of crime and the accounts were being used “as virtual piggy banks for very large amounts of money”.

29:25

On screen text:
“a very clear inference of money laundering”

A judge said the police evidence showed “a very clear inference of money laundering” by the Russians.

29:40

Shumanov

ILYA SHUMANOV, DIRECTOR, TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL RUSSIA: The Russian media ask these guys about the purpose of their visit to Australia, and they answered that they would like to provide some sources for dairy goods, for ice cream factory, and also they would like to start the gem business with some Australian partners. But they have never opened any corporate in Australia. They only deposited this money into the bank accounts, nothing else.

29:47

Ext. Court.

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: The case was shrouded in secrecy after the court agreed to extraordinary suppression orders over most of the evidence.

30:17

Chaikin 100%

DR DAVID CHAIKIN, LECTURER, TRANSNATIONAL CRIME, UNIVERSITY OF SYDNEY: Now, the normal case is that the court suppresses court documents, because they're concerned that that may affect the integrity of a jury trial, in order to protect an accused from unfair prejudicial information. Now that's not the situation here, because there's no prospect of a criminal trial. So other reasons for issuing suppression orders include safeguarding national security or protecting Australia's relations with foreign countries.

30:28

Irkutsk GVs

Music

31:03

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Our joint investigation led to the Siberian city of Irkutsk.

31:10

Gem company

We uncovered new information linking the gem company at the centre of the alleged scheme with a powerful figure in the Putin government. Documents show it is part-owned by the son of Russia’s deputy prosecutor general,

31:20

Photo. Zakharov

Alexei Zakharov.

ILYA SHUMANOV, DIRECTOR, TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL RUSSIA: Alexei Zakharov is well known in Russia, a very, very powerful person with a

31:35

Shumanov 100%

big connection in the Ministry of Defence of Russia, advisor of Mr. Putin and so on and so on.

 

 

31:47

Photo. Dimitry

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Zakharov’s son Dimitry became a shareholder in the gem company in 2015.

ILYA SHUMANOV, DIRECTOR, TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL RUSSIA: He is big fan of the luxury cars and he spent a lot of time in social media, in playing video games

31:54

 

and so on, and so on and I think he barely had an opportunity to visit Irkutsk and I think so, this guy could be the nominee of his father or his family.

32:12

Radu 100%. Super:
PAUL RADU
Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project

PAUL RADU, ORGANISED CRIME AND CORRUPTION REPORTING PROJECT: The Australian authorities should really focus on this type of criminal behaviour on this, because this is a pattern, you know, offshore type of companies, shell companies, wiring money into bank accounts in Australia. We've only seen the tip of the iceberg. There's a lot more going on, and this is very, very worrying.

32:26

Nicholls to camera

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: It’s not just criminals and politicians accused of hiding “dark” money offshore. Some of Russia’s most prominent business figures are accused of moving their dirty cash around the globe. One is an oligarch named Oleg Deripaska who has a significant investment in Australia.

32:49

GFX. Photo. Deripaska

Oleg Deripaska is a billionaire tycoon who made his fortune during a violent power struggle to take over Russia’s lucrative aluminium industry.

 

 

 

33:07

Galeotti 100%. Super:
MARK GALEOTTI
Snr Assoc Fellow, Royal United Services Institute

MARK GALEOTTI, SNR ASSOC FELLOW, ROYAL UNITED SERVICES INSTITUTE: It was a time of extraordinary notoriety, of gangsters being used as hit men as part of business disputes and so forth. Deripaska was not, shall we say, regarded as the dirtiest of those, but nonetheless that's the environment in which he was operating and so we've got allegations of people being threatened or actually thrown out of helicopters. We have allegations of being in bed with gangsters, using them not just to pay them off for protection, but actually using them to target business rivals. We have allegations of moving dirty money and essentially laundering it through this sector. Now it's important to stress, these have not been proven in a court of law.

33:21

Michelmore 100%

ANDREW MICHELMORE, FORMER DERIPASKA EXECUTIVE: What I heard was, in terms of Oleg,

34:06

Super:
ANDREW MICHELMORE
Fmr Chairman Rusal

he would come out of the hotel and there was six Mercedes lined up, black Mercedes. He would go in one of them and they would drive as a convoy out to the smelter and all the things behind that was because people were trying to kill him over the aluminium assets. They had to lock themselves in the smelter one day when they were under, literally, under fire and his CFO was killed. He was shot in this war.

34:11

Smelter

Music

34:42

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Deripaska’s company, Rusal, became one of the largest aluminium producers in the world.

 

 

34:53

 

In 2004, Rusal invested in Australia buying 20 per cent of Queensland Alumina Ltd for $530 million dollars and partnering with mining giant Rio Tinto, which owns the remaining 80 percent. The Australian refinery remains an important asset for Rusal.

ANDREW MICHELMORE, FORMER CHAIRMAN RUSAL: They needed 4 million-plus tonnes of alumina

35:01

Michelmore 100%

and they didn't have it in their own empire and the quality of the material they made the aluminium from, wasn't as good as the fantastic bauxite we have here in Australia.

35:27

Photo. Deripaska with Putin

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Deripaska is one of Russia’s most powerful oligarchs, who owes his position to Vladimir Putin.

35:41

Putin in meeting with Deripaska and others.

He is accused by the US Treasury of holding assets and laundering money for the Russian president. Putin hasn’t hesitated to publicly remind Deripaska who’s boss.

35:49

 

Putin: Did everybody sign this agreement?

- Yes.

Putin: Deripaska, have you signed?

Deripaska: I've signed.

Putin: I can't see your signature. Sign it. Here's the agreement…. Give me back my pen.

CATHERINE BELTON, AUTHOR ‘PUTIN’S PEOPLE’: Putin essentially created a system in which he has compromising information on every Russian billionaire. Indeed, all of them earned their wealth in, in a slightly dubious way in the '90s, when really all the rules went out of the window.

36:02

Belton 100%

It became a system in which, sort of the Russian billionaires understood very clearly that they own their assets,

36:47

Super:
CATHERINE BELTON
Author, 'Putin's People'

through remaining in the good books of the Kremlin, that they had to carry out strategic tasks for the Kremlin.

36:55

Rolls Building, London

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: In 2012, during a business dispute in the British High Court, allegations emerged that Deripaska had ordered the murder of a rival, bribed an official and had Russian mafia links.

37:02

Photo. Deripaska

He’s also been accused by the US Senate Intelligence Committee of involvement in murderous political conspiracies on behalf of the Kremlin.

37:21

Belton 100%

CATHERINE BELTON, AUTHOR ‘PUTIN’S PEOPLE’: According to the Senate intelligence report, Deripaska wound up funding and directly executing a Russian intelligence plan to overthrow, the pro-Western Montenegrin government and try and assassinate its prime minister. These are pretty stark accusations, which of course Deripaska would deny. But the Senate Intelligence Committee obviously has enough evidence  to make these allegations.

37:33

Moscow GVs

Music

38:05

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: In 2018, after allegations of Russian meddling in the US election, Deripaska was among the Putin loyalists hit with financial sanctions by the United States.

38:09

Photo. Putin and Deripaska at APEC

Rusal and its parent company EN+ were also targeted.

 

38:21

 

ANNA MASSOGLIA, FOREIGN INFLUENCE RESEARCHER, CENTRE FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: Those sanctions prevented financial transactions largely in the United States.

38:30

Massoglia 100%

He, as well as his companies, primarily under the umbrella of RUSAL and EN+,

38:35

Super:
ANNA MASSOGLIA
Foreign influence researcher, Center for Responsive Politics

were prevented from continuing to expand their businesses and exchange money in the United States.

38:40

Sanctions document on computer

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Deripaska hired top-tier Washington lobbyists Mercury Public Affairs to try to get the sanctions on Rusal and EN+ overturned.

38:47

Massoglia at computer

Researcher Anna Massoglia began tracking the operation.

ANNA MASSOGLIA, FOREIGN INFLUENCE RESEARCHER, CENTRE FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: Mercury Public Affairs was able to leverage their connections in DC, with

38:59

Massoglia 100%

people in political positions of power, in order to further this foreign influence operation. One way that they did this, was by contacting ambassadors in a number of countries, including Australia, to send letters that furthered the interest of the foreign influence operation.

39:12

Photo. Donald Trump, Joe Hockey

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: The lobbyists targeted the then Australian ambassador to Washington, Joe Hockey, to pressure him to support the lifting of sanctions.

39:29

GFX Briefing note. On screen text:
“Rusal owns 20% of Queensland Alumina. Therefore, the jobs and critical economic activity of this company are at risk.”

They sent him a briefing note warning “Rusal owns 20% of Queensland Alumina. Therefore the jobs and critical economic activity of this company are at risk.”

39:38

Lillywhite 100%. Super:
SERENA LILLYWHITE
CEO, Transparency International Australia

SERENA LILLYWHITE, CEO, TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL AUSTRALIA: The letter that was sent to the Australian ambassador to the US sought to provide assurances to the Australian ambassador that the company had sufficiently restructured to warrant those sanctions against them being lifted and those assurances included, for example, that Mr Deripaska had reduced his controlling ownership of Rusal to less than 50 percent, so he no longer held a controlling share stake.

39:51

GFX. Ext. Australian embassy.

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: The lobbyists prepared a draft letter they wanted Hockey to sign and deliver to key decision makers. It read:

40:25

Highlighted on screen text:
“On behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia, I would like to express strong support for the … plan to restructure the EN+ Group and Rusal in order to lift the threat of sanctions against the companies.”

 

 

 

“On behalf of the Commonwealth of Australia, I would like to express strong support for the … plan to restructure the EN+ Group and Rusal in order to lift the threat of sanctions against the companies.”

40:33

Lillywhite 100%

SERENA LILLYWHITE, CEO TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL AUSTRALIA: It is quite extraordinary that a lobbyist would actually provide a letter stating “we the Commonwealth of Australia support this request.” It is quite an audacious approach to lobbying and is effectively spoon feeding the Australian ambassador with information in order to get his signature on a letter that the company then planned to use for whatever purpose they want in the future.

40:48

Capitol Building, Washington. GFX documents over

Music

41:17

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Joe Hockey told Four Corners he couldn’t recall the letter and would not have acted on it. Documents obtained under FOI show that at the height of the lobbying campaign senior Australian embassy staff sent more than a dozen emails to key US officials overseeing the sanctions regime. The Australian diplomats met with US State Department and Treasury representatives and raised “the importance of an early consideration by the US of an Australian company’s proposal to meet the terms of the sanctions”.

41:20

Lillywhite 100%

SERENA LILLYWHITE, CEO, TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL AUSTRALIA: Well, certainly, lobbying is not new, it’s not illegal. Lobbying takes place regularly in Australia. I guess what is interesting in this particular case is the fact that efforts were made to actually secure the support of the Australian government to have these sanctions against the company overturned.

 

41:55

Photo. Deripaska

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: In 2019, the US lifted sanctions against Rusal, after Deripaska agreed to reduce his stake in the company, but Deripaska remains personally sanctioned.

42:18

Massoglia 100%. Super:
ANNA MASSOGLIA
Foreign influence researcher, Center for Responsive Politics

ANNA MASSOGLIA, FOREIGN INFLUENCE RESEARCHER, CENTER FOR RESPONSIVE POLITICS: The sanctions were controversial and lifting the sanctions were very controversial. There was a lot of discussion in Congress, as well as among administration officials, about whether these steps taking by EN+ and Rusal were sufficient to remove sanctions on the company, since Oleg Deripaska was still such a divisive and controversial figure himself.

42:34

GFX photo. Deripaska. On screen text: "...Deripaska conducts influence operations, frequently in countries where he has a significant economic interest. The Russian government coordinates with and directs Deripaska on many of his influence operations.”

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Last August, the Senate Intelligence Committee stated that "...Deripaska conducts influence operations, frequently in countries where he has a significant economic interest. The Russian government coordinates with and directs Deripaska on many of his influence operations.”

43:02

"Deripaska's companies, including RUSAL, are proxies for the Kremlin, including for Russian government influence efforts, economic measures, and diplomatic relations."

 

 

 

Critically it found that "Deripaska's companies, including RUSAL, are proxies for the Kremlin, including for Russian government influence efforts, economic measures, and diplomatic relations."

43:20

Lillywhite 100%. Super:
SERENA LILLYWHITE
CEO, Transparency International Australia

SERENA LILLYWHITE, CEO, TRANSPARENCY INTERNATIONAL AUSTRALIA: No individual or company that is sanctioned as is the case with Mr Deripaska – there are personal sanctions against him – should be allowed to do business in Australia. And equally no individual or company that is accused of serious crime, corruption, money laundering and misconduct should be able to conduct business in Australia.

43:34

 

So, it’s certainly an area where Australia can improve its corporate governance, its corporate oversight to ensure that we have investment in Australia by individuals that are fit and proper to be doing business in Australia.

43:59

Anti-Putin protests

 

44:15

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: In Russia, Putin is under pressure from his own people. Tens of thousands have clashed with police at protests against the Russian president, demanding the release of opposition leader Alexey Navalny.

44:25

 

Navalny was jailed after surviving a poisoning attempt by Russian agents. 

44:47

Anti-Putin march Sydney

Crowd: "Free Navalny, free Navalny!" 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: At an anti-Putin march in central Sydney, Australian Cossacks and their leader Simeon Boikov turned up to confront the protestors.

44:57

Boikov at protest

SIMEON BOIKOV: "We’re here with our president Vladimir Putin, supporting the president. Supporting Vladimir Putin against these opposition scum."

45:12

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: The protestors saw Boikov and his cronies as the embodiment of Putin’s repressive regime.

45:23

Woman protestor

PROTESTER: It’s a good representation of people who are for him. So you will see they’re all a bit older, men, like military, and we see young people, happy, smiling and dancing and we want a free Russia.

45:34

 

 

 

Boikov interview at protest

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: How can you support a regime that has just tried to murder the opposition leader Alexey Navalny?

SIMEON BOIKOV, LEADER AUSTRALIAN COSSACKS: Look, if it really was them, then I have one comment I can make: they should have done it properly. Novichok is very potent and if it was Novichok, he would be dead. Putin said, if it was them, if someone wanted to kill him, they would have liquidated him. It would be very easy to do so. In fact, he’s in jail now. We can get him in jail.

45:47

 

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: So, you support the idea of murdering political opponents?

SIMEON BOIKOV, LEADER AUSTRALIAN COSSACKS: I wouldn’t say murdering, I would say liquidating. Murdering is a bad word.

46:12

Anti-Putin protest, Sydney

SEAN NICHOLLS, REPORTER: Around the world, opposition to Vladimir Putin’s rule is getting louder.

46:20

 

Here in Australia, his loyal supporters are emboldened and growing ever more strident in defending their president and his ruthless regime.

 

46:30

 

SIMEON BOIKOV, LEADER AUSTRALIAN COSSACKS: Australian laws are very, very relaxed. I could never imagine doing this in other countries, what we're allowed to do here.  Australia is a very good place, if you want to promote a foreign agenda.

46:46

Boikov 100%

My colleagues in Russia, when they hear about what we do here, they're shocked.  We walk through the middle of Canberra, 30 Cossacks in uniform with a Russian flag, marching to Russian military march and when the Russians in Russia hear about this, they say, "Could you imagine if an Australian detachment was to march down Red Square unauthorised? Some American military march, or something like that, impossible. But that's what makes Australia unique.

47:01

Outpoint

 

47:35

 

 

 

CREDITS: 

reporter

SEAN NICHOLLS

 

producer

JEANAVIVE McGREGOR

 

researcher

MARY FALLON

LYDIA CHU

 

editor

MICHAEL NETTLESHIP

 

assistant editor

JAMES BRAYE

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

camera

MATHEW MARSIC

LOUIE EROGLU ACS

PHIL HEMINGWAY

STEVE LIDGERWOOD

CHRISTOPHER ALBERT

ALBERT RADU

ALEKSEY DYACHENKO

JOSHUA ZAINI

RUSSEL TALBOT

PETER HEALY

 

sound

RICHARD McDERMOTT

OLIVER JUNKER

DAVE WILLIAMS

STUART THORNE

LORENTZ PUIU

 

fixer

MIHAI RADU

 

archive producer
MICHAEL OSMOND

 

translations
EUGENE ULMAN

designer

LINDSAY DUNBAR

 

digital producers

LAURA GARTRY
BRIGID ANDERSEN

 

social media producer

HARRIET TATHAM

 

legal

KATHRYN WILSON

 

publicity

PAUL AKKERMANS

 

promotions

LAURA MURRAY

 

sound mixer

EVAN HORTON

 

colourist

SIMON BRAZZALOTTO

 

 

post production

JAMES BRAYE

 

additional vision

AUSTRALIAN COSSACKS

AAP IMAGES

GETTY IMAGES

REUTERS

AP

THE KREMLIN

DENIS RYAUZOV / YOUTUBE

RUSSIA-1

JOE HOCKEY / INSTAGRAM

MONITOR.BG

BRISBANE TIMES

 

theme music

RICK TURK

 

titles

LODI KRAMER

 

production coordinator

LYDIA CHU

 

production manager

WENDY PURCHASE

 

supervising producer

MORAG RAMSAY

 

executive producer

SALLY NEIGHBOUR

© 2019 Journeyman Pictures
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