August 9 2014

– IT WAS like something out of a Russian spy movie. A former KGB colonel shot dead outside his Australian mansion by killer frogmen who slunk away through the Gold Coast’s complex network of canals in the dead of night.

It is now 14 years since Gennadi Bernovski, a millionaire businessman with links to the KGB and Russia’s ruthless Mafia, was gunned down in the driveway of his Benowa Waters mansion.

The story made international headlines but Mr Bernovski’s killer has never been caught.

And yet it all could have been so much different.

A fingerprint linking Mr Bernovski’s alleged killer to the crime scene was not discovered until after Oleg Kouzmine, a fellow Russian and business partner, had fled back to Russia.

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Australia has no extradition treaty with Russia – and the current icy climate between Russia and the West means that is unlikely to change any time soon.

The collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 sent many Russians in search of new homes. Some chose the US. Others moved Down Under. Many were simply looking for a better life. Others sensed an opportunity to take over the criminal landscape. Gennadi Bernovski was a little bit of both.

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Cold case arrest
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He moved to Australia with his stunning bride, Svetlana, in the mid-1990s and started a smallgoods business with a couple of Russian partners. He loved martial arts and walking his dog. It wasn’t until after his death that another picture emerged.

Mr Bernovski had been in the KGB, rising to the rank of colonel.

In Australia, he had found work for or made business partnerships with a number of Russian expatriates with shady pasts. And almost $1 million was allegedly missing from his business, including $400,000 owed to one of his partners, Oleg Kouzmine.

Mr Kouzmine had come to police attention in 1998. He had alleged he was the victim of an extortion racket being run by Russian Mafia figures. However, when he refused to testify at trial the case was dismissed.

He was one of the first people interviewed by police after Mr Bernovski’s death.

Details of the pair’s financial dispute had emerged and he had been conspicuous in his absence from Mr Bernovski’s wake.

However, after a police interrogation, he was released without charge. Three days later he left the country. He would never return.

A warrant was issued for his arrest in April 2001, but he remains at large. He remains the chief suspect, but police do not believe he acted alone.

A witness, who had pulled over on the side of the road near the Bernovski mansion to call her priest, told police she recalled seeing two men walking down the street two minutes after the shooting dressed in wetsuits or black Lycra about 9.30pm on July 24, 2000.

Police arrive at the home of murdered Russian businessman Gennadi Bernovski in 2000.
Police arrive at the home of murdered Russian businessman Gennadi Bernovski in 2000.
Detectives from the state’s Cold Case Unit recently reviewed the case and tried to establish lines of communication with Russian police.

Detective Superintendent Dave Hutchinson said the case remained very much alive.

“There are still difficulties in dealing with Russia, but these cases are never closed,’ he said.

There are more than 3000 Russian expats living on the Gold Coast.

Police have tried countless times to glean any information about Mr Bernovski’s death, but the Russian community has told them nothing.

It seems the Iron Curtain has fallen once again.

– Jeremy Pierce


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