tv Witness LINKTV September 4, 2022 6:00pm-6:31pm PDT
sasha duganov: we join because of the bikes. you obviously can't join the club unless you own a bike. that's the first thing. we 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 wanna show the world russia, whatever you wanna call it, that russia had a massive history, and we're trying to keep it up. sean: the night wolves are among an international network of patriots determined to remind the world that vladimir putin's russia is a force to be reckoned with. kyle wilson: putin sees such organizations as a significant asset in pursuing his particular goals, whether they be domestic goals or foreign policy goals. you can use the russian diaspora, the russian community,
to'tis to be hoped, toinfluence anshift australia's policies. russia makes no bones about it. sean: in russia, putin has launched a brutal crackdown to crush pro-democracy protestors. while in australia, his supporters are determined to shout down putin's critics. simeon boikov: we're here with our president, vladimir putin, supporting the president, supporting vladimir putin against these opposition scum. sean: why would russia care about australia? mark galeotti: russia cares about australia because russia cares about everywhere. 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. sean: australia has also become a safe haven for rivers of dirty money flowing out of putin's corrupt regime. paul radu: australia is a great place to keep money.
it's 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. sean: tonight, on "four corners," we investigate russian money and influence in australia. we track the tainted cash from russian criminals and poticians that has washed up on our shore. we reveal how one of putin's closest allies lobbied australia to help lift u.s. sanctions from his business interests and how a propaganda war is being waged right here to support the kremlin's global agenda.
♪♪♪ sesean: the new south wales chapter of the night wolves is putting on a proud show of russian patriotism. they're heading for a cenotaph on sydney's northern beaches to celebrate a famous russian battle known as the attack of the dead. vladimir simonian: [speaking foreign language] alexey muraviev: the night wolves are probably the most
well-organized and best-branded russian biker organization. the current strength of the organization is about 5,000 active members. it has chapters all across russia but also spreading into the former soviet space as well as into europe as well as other parts of the world, which now includes australia. sean: the australian chapter was founded in 2015. there are now members in new south wales, queensland, victoria, and western australia. male: yeah, boys, gather 'round. alexey: publicly, they're doing a whole range of activities from organizing christmas shows for disadvantaged children, to joy bike rides, to what they describe as patriotic rides normally associated with
commemorating major historical milestones. 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. [honking] sean: the club's most famous supporter is vladimir putin. president vladimir putin: [speaking foreign language] [shooting and shouting] sean: the russian night wolves act as a proxy army for the kremlin. male: [speaking foreign language] sean: they promote their expertise in military and combat tactics.
sean: the night wolves are sanctioned by the united states for fighting with the pro-russian forces in ukraine. mark: the kremlin have this concept of the "russkiy mir," the "russian world." essentially, wherever there are ethnic russians, then moscow needs to have some kind of representation, 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 organizations. although, on the whole, this is meant to be essentially 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.
♪♪♪ sean: the shores of sydney harbor seem an unlikely setting for a celebration of russian nationalism. today's event is organized by a pro-putin group called the double-headed eagle society. among the guests is the russian consulate-general in sydney. simeon boikov: in about three minutes, would you come and please take your seats. sean: the host is 31-year-old sydneysider simeon boikov, the australian-born son of a russian orthodox priest. he's also the leader of the australian cossack society, which styles itself as a military unit. simeon: today's ceremony is very significant, for it's the hundred-year anniversary since the 1920 great russian exodus.
sean: what are the cossacks in australia here to do and to achieve? simeon: 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 admittg that we are pro-russian. [music in russian] sean: boikov leads a small group of dedicated australian cossacks. 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. male: [speaking foreign language] simeon: [speaking foreign language]
♪♪♪ simeon: so our job as russian patriots--and this is what i call upon my compatriots to do all the time is to be mobilized and be active in defending russia. some people, they think, "oh, well, assimilation and so forth, and "we can't do much to help russia." we believe that it's not enough just to be russian. you must support russia. you must actively support russia, and you shld defend russia. sean: boikov has led groups of australian cossacks to russia where they fired guns and visited a military training facility. [gunshots]
sean: in 2018, simeon boikov told a russian media outlet, "we have a unique opportunity to support russia from within an enemy state." he was refring to australia. he said cossacks in australia could "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." sean: why do you regard australia as an enemy state? simeon: no, australia, in this context, a state which is placing sanctions against russia and behaving in an anti-russian manner, you know, in that way could be perceived that the activities are not the activities of an ally. 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 wanna facilitate the rehabilitation of australian relations with russia, which is very important.
you bet you are. you bet i am. i am going to be saying to mr. putin, australians were murdered. they were murdered by russian-backed rebels using russian-supplied equipment. we are very unhappy about this. mark: i mean, up to this point, russian-australian relations 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. sean: when protestors condemned putin over mh17 during the 14 g20 meeng in brisbane, australian cossack
simeon boikov led a counter rally defending the russian president. sean: four corners has learned australian authorities were monitoring boikov over concerns he may have raised money for separatists in ukraine and may have traveled to the conflict himself. sean: do you deny it? simeon: of course, i deny traveling to ukraine. i haven't been to ukraine since the beginning g of the wa. i went to ukraine before the war. i've been to western ukraine, kiev. sean: in 2015, boikov went to russia 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. why did you think it was appropriate to go and visit him? simeon: igor strelkov is a hero of novorossiya. novorossiya. he didn't shoot down mh17, neither did anyone on the russian side. mh17 was shot down by ukraine, over ukrainian territory, you know, in ukrainian airspace. had nothing to do with russia. very simple. sean: boikov's denial of russia's guilt ignores the overwhelming evidence. sean: in fact, strelkov and three others, two russians, one ukrainian, are currently on trial in the netherlands for this very crime. simeon: in absentia. well, you know, they can make whatever kangaroo court they like when, you know, if we shot the plane down, i'm sure we
would've admitted it. sean: boikov and his fellow cossacks have also tried to silence the local ukrainian community. simeon: [speaking foreign language] female: [speaking foreign language] sean: in this video, boikov taunts parishioners and their priest outside a ukrainian church in sydney. simeon: i wanna ask you a question. why do you have crimea is ukrainian on your church? everyone knows it's russian. male: everyone knows it's russian-- [speaking foreign language] sean: also present is vladimir simonian, the president of the night wolves australia motorcycle club. simeon: [speaking foreign language] sean: some would see that as intimidation. simeon: well, there's a fine line. i mean, if we wanted to, we could've done something much
worse, 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, you know, that's un-australian and--but it's good to remind other people in our presence, our physical presence, just, you know, people seeing the fact that there are cossacks there, so forth, is enough to discourage anti-russian activities, and i've noticed that. sean: boikov spreads his relentlessly pro-russian views in the newspaper he founded called "russian frontier." simeon: the "russian frontier" newspaper in australia is a newspaper which counters the anti-russian hysteria. you know, people read the newspaper, and they're shocked to realize, "oh, there's a different side to the story."
the western press is very anti-russian, so this is a good alternative. simeon: putin has a lot of power in the kremlin. the russian government has a lot of power, and it has a very large ard 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, you know, 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. sean: "russian frontier" doesn't just deliver pro-russian news. it's also used to settle scores.
sean: last year, former australian diplomat and russia intelligence analyst, kyle wilson, become a target of "russian frontier." kyle wilson: its content tends to be extremist. it makes a practice of identifying people who disagree with it as "enemies." it makit calls them of identi"enemies of russia."agree sean: wilson had written about boikov's pro-russian influence activities in australia, infuriating boikov. simeon: [speaking foreign language] sean: the next edition of "russian frontier" branded wilson's article "racist" and called him an "anti-russian conspiracy theorist." 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: "funny guy, i kill you last." ha-ha-ha-ha. [speaking foreign language] kyle: the abuse, the vituperation, the questioning of my motives, the impugning ofy 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-- simeon: i'm not going to tolerate people like kyle wilson bashing our community, writing hysterical articles against russia. you know, we have a newspaper, and we'll use that to defend russian interests and to publicly criticize and rebuff the outrageous allegations that kyle wilson makes.
sean: 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 nationist group. boikov is his deputy. valeriy malinovskiy: the agenda of our branch is to promote russian culture, to educate people, to dismay this misconception about russia. thirty million russians live overseas. it's 20% 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. kyle: 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. sean: last year, boikov and malinovskiy were appointed to their positions by the then head of the double-headed eagle society in russia, leonid reshetnikov, a former russian spy. reshetnikov and the russian branch of the society have been accused of involvement in espionage activities in eastern europe. kyle: now, leonid reshetnikov was a general in the kgb. he now purported to be retired, but mr. putin has said that there's no such thing as a retired kgb officer. 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 g 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. alexey: we need to recognize that russia doesn't look at australia as a friendly country. russia looks at australia thugh the prism of our security and defense alliance with the united states. 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. sean: russia's interest in australia is not just political. australia has become an attractive destination for large sums of russian cash.
sean: four corners has been working with international anti-corruption ornizations to investigate millions of doars in allegedly dir russian money stashed here and laundered through australian banks and businesses. paul: australia is a great place to keep money. it's 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. sean: paul radu is the co-founder of the organized crime and corruption reporting project, a group of investigators based in eastern europe. in 2014, his organization 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." paul: in the case of the russian laundromat, more than 20 billion u.s. 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. sean: the leak revealed that some of that money was funneled to a company based in the tiny new south wales coastal town of umina beach. sean: 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. sean: the leaked docents 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 an materials," but when we asked gemini's australian director about the data, she said she didn't recognize the company names and had no record of the transactions. paul: quite a few of the companies that we spoke with said the same, that they were not aware of the ogin of the money, that 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 type of companies. at the receiving end, the company said, "well, we don't know why they chose to pay us in that particular way."
sean: there is an estimated one trillion dollars in "dark" russian money hidden offshore. part of ilya shumanov's job at transparency international is to track it down. four corners has been working with him to investigate the flow of some of this tainted cash into australia. ilya shumanov: a thousand russian officials and oligarchs, they kept their money not in russia but abroad for the safe reasons 'cause they are not sure about stability of russian political and economical system. that's why they would like to save their money in some
financial sectors not in russia but in other territories. sean: 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: there's these guys who came to australia a few times. 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. sean: the russians were involved in two siberian businesses: an ice cream factory and a precious-gem company.
during their visits, there have been 24 accounts at this one surfers paradise branch, and over three years, more than $29 million was deposited into them. dr. david chaikin: the russians obtained debit cards on those bank accounts, and they used those debit cards to fund luxury holidays, designer clothes, expensive jewelry. the australian federal police carried out a six-month investigation,nd with the materialhey had, they sought successfully to freeze those bank accounts in queensland. sean: 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." a judge said the police evidence showed "a very clear inference
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