Russians go for gold money laundering regulations uk

LUXURY cruisers with million-dollar price tags are lined up like shopping trolleys outside mansions with multimillion-dollar price tags on the gold coast’s sovereign islands.

Increasingly that includes the citizens of russia. Assessments of queensland’s natural resources department sales data by property companies DTZ and colliers international show the russians have become the biggest foreign property buyers on the gold coast.

In 2006-07 russian nationals purchased $36million worth of gold coast properties in 64 transactions, up from $12 million spent on real estate along the tourist strip by russians in each of the years 2005-06 and 2004-05, with negligible investment in the early 2000s. Expectations are that there is plenty more russian money on the way.

Russian investors are flush with funds from oil and the explosion of capitalism into the post-communist void.Money laundering regulations uk up-market gold coast estates such as sovereign islands are catching their eye.

Colliers sovereign islands agent john ashworth is negotiating with a moscow family with printing business interests over a $5million mansion sale. They want five bedrooms, each with its own bathroom, he says. It’s all about lifestyle. Then of course they want water frontage; they all want water frontage.

Russians are not just buying gold coast properties; they are active participants in the local real estate trade. Russian-born elena shakirova is selling properties for the gold coast office of first national real estate.

About 25 per cent of my customers are russian, shakirova says. What appeals to them most is the weather and the easygoing lifestyle here. In russia you seem to work all the time and you’re tired all the time. Here you can relax more.

The modus operandi of one prominent russian player in the gold coast property market has met with the disapproval of queensland authorities.Money laundering regulations uk

On the sovereign islands, russian-born alexei fedotov and his australian wife sarah filippini have turned over $16 million worth of real estate in recent years. The transactions include a property purchased by the couple in king arthur court for $1.18 million and sold six months later for $1.45 million through agent heather filippini, sarah’s mother.

The transaction was one of several involving heather filippini and her son-in-law cited in proceedings that led to her licence being suspended in 2006 by the queensland commercial and consumer tribunal. Property agents are prohibited from gaining a beneficial interest from transactions involving relatives. Heather filippini’s licence was restored in december on appeal to the queensland district court, which increased her fine from $11,250 to $17,500: a fraction of her commission from a single property sale.Money laundering regulations uk

State property records show that fedotov, who drives an expensive four-wheel drive with numberplates emblazoned with RUSKIE, purchased a block of vacant land in brittania court on the sovereign islands in partnership with his mother-in-law for $660,000. It was sold solely to heather filippini for $370,000 a year later.

In 2005, heather filippini — who variously drives a red ferrari, a yellow porsche or a blue rolls-royce — was hit with an assessment notice for $200,000 by the office of state revenue for stamp duty and penalties. Fedotov had received duty concessions for two sovereign islands mansions bought in the name of A. Fedotov or nominees which he claimed as residences. Sarah filippini emerged as the nominee, but the commissioner of state revenue determined that neither the agent nor her son-in-law occupied the homes.

Heather filippini denies any relationship with fedotov.Money laundering regulations uk I don’t have a son-in-law, she says. She declines to comment further. Fedotov could not be reached for comment. Sarah filippini, whose photograph appears with that of her mother as an agent on numerous for-sale signs on sovereign islands, also declines to comment. She has not run foul of the authorities.

Other russians are becoming players in the development of gold coast real estate projects, with industry sources indicating that at least four russian companies have entered the market recently. Their involvement may be an early reflection of the kind of foreign interest that resulted in the japanese becoming big operators in the gold coast property sector, especially in and around surfers paradise during the 1980s.

Just behind surfers paradise on chevron island, jet construction australia is building an up-market apartment block on land it purchased for $2.3 million last year.Money laundering regulations uk company records show the company is owned by moscow businessman gogiya spartak. The land was purchased in 2002 for $950,000 by olmera, a company owned by russian-born gold coast resident ivanova liudmila.

The gold coast-based raptis group advertises its hilton surfers paradise in russian on its website and russians have purchased seven luxury apartments in the complex. Developer jim raptis says although this is a small proportion of those sold, there is potential for the russian buyer market to expand.

Q1, the world’s tallest residential complex, is another surfers paradise landmark attracting significant russian interest. Surfers paradise is a big name, which russians recognise, says colliers international gold coast sales manager rob sainsbury, who recently sold a $1million penthouse to a russian. These are up-market buyers and surfers paradise is a very attractive destination to them.Money laundering regulations uk

The russian interest in gold coast real estate has been unsolicited, DTZ project market director paul barnett says. Nobody has gone out to get it. It’s come largely to us online. Barnett is understandably enthusiastic about the russians. These are lifestyle-driven people from a drab environment with enormous amounts of dough they want to invest in large chunks. They flit around the world picking out prime real estate in attractive places like the spanish mediterranean coast or here on the gold coast.

A recent study found that russians had bought homes worth pound stg. 2.2 billion ($4.7 billion) in britain since 2000, more than investors from the US and the middle east combined.

Lewis land corporation sales director robert challenger says most russians are purchasing gold coast properties primarily as investments. They see it is a safety net in case their world falls apart.Money laundering regulations uk they think of it as a way of ensuring that their currency remains in good hands. However, increasing numbers of russians are calling the gold coast home. Says challenger: the gold coast has a good climate, good infrastructure and a resort-style lifestyle. If you live in siberia, it can be pretty good over here.

Real estate agents report that russians are generally younger than other foreign buyers, with cashed-up investors in their 40s being the norm. They usually speak english fluently and are considered very polite and reliable.

Says challenger: we regard them as very good clients. Builders never report having trouble getting their money.

But the bustling tourist strip also appeals to a darker side of russia, with the gold coast emerging as a focal point for some of australia’s biggest credit card scams and phishing rackets, where online bank account information is stolen.Money laundering regulations uk

Queensland police fraud squad superintendent brian hay says the gold coast scams are linked to international schemes largely overseen by russians and other former eastern bloc nationals with highly developed mathematical skills. Russian and belarusian nationals on the gold coast have been convicted of internet banking fraud in recent years.

Hay says property transactions are an efficient way of laundering money from organised crime. There are more millionaires in moscow per head of population than in new york. The money from some of these activities has to go somewhere.

A 2001 report by queensland’s crime and misconduct commission concluded that russian organised crime was making its presence felt on the gold coast with large volumes of money being moved through sophisticated white-collar crime rackets.

The commission warned that russian-based organised crime operatives were laundering money through gold coast property acquisitions.Money laundering regulations uk concern about local russian involvement in organised crime came to a head with the murder in 2000 of former KGB colonel gennadi bernovski at his home in the surfers paradise suburb of benowa. Bernovski was shot by two frogmen who emerged from a canal beside his luxury home.

His former gold coast business partner, oleg kouzmine, who returned to russia soon after the murder, is wanted for questioning by local police, but australia has no extradition treaty with russia.

Australian federal police sources say that some members of the gold coast’s 3000-strong russian community are of interest to police and their movements are monitored. However, authorities point out that the overwhelming majority of russian immigrants on the gold coast are law-abiding, cashed-up citizens who fit in well and make substantial contributions to the local economy.

Irina and victor drozg established a store for the escada chain in the marine mirage retail complex when they moved to the gold coast years ago.Money laundering regulations uk our home was in vladivostok, where it can be minus 25C, irina drozg says. Here, the climate and the beaches and everything is so beautiful. The couple live in a luxury apartment on ephraim island, across the water from the sovereign islands. They appreciate the tight security that is a feature of most wealthy gold coast canal estates.

It is safer here, irina drozg says. Wefeel we are fortunate that we can call australia our home.