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Russian whistle-blower denied asylum in Australia

In 2006, British contractor Nick Stride was hired to work on the refurbishment of a palace under construction for Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister, Igor Shuvalov, on his estate outside Moscow. The project included the construction of a luxurious greenhouse known as the “Wintergarden,” and the cost of the refurbishment is thought to be in excess of $140 million.

Shuvalov is widely regarded as one of the more “liberal” of President Putin’s close associates, a “counterpoint” to the hardliners dominant in the Kremlin. He is credited with strengthening business relations between the US and Russia, improving the problematic reputation of Russia’s international commerce, and is thought to enjoy a good relationship with Putin.

Using the pseudonym “Lucas,” Stride blew the whistle on Shuvalov’s complex web of financial manipulations, including dubious transactions and avoidance of customs tax on materials imported to refurbish the estate and construct the greenhouse. “Lucas” provided relevant documents to journalist and author, Michael Weiss, including copies of invoices. The labyrinthine details of Shuvalov’s financial arrangements for the refurbishment of his estate can be seen here in a marvellously complex account written by Weiss for Foreign Policy, an account for which Stride was the source.

In 2010, Nick Stride and his family were threatened with “severe consequences” should they ever attempt to leave Russia, because of his extensive knowledge of Shuvalov’s business dealings. Fearing for their lives, the family escaped Russia and fled to Britain. However, believing they were still far too vulnerable to Russian retribution, Stride brought his family to Australia, where they requested political asylum.

A Refugee Review Tribunal Assessor found the danger they feared to be real, yet despite this assessment, their plea for asylum was rejected in 2012. Successive immigration ministers have refused to intervene to prevent the family’s deportation. Stride and his children will be deported to Britain, while his wife and their mother, Ludmila Kovateva, will be sent by Immigration Minister David Coleman to Russia. Ludmila faces almost certain execution in her home country, as retaliation by Shuvalov for her husband’s exposure of his financial affairs to US media.

On Thursday 17 January, Michael Weiss posted several tweets, appealing for Australian legal assistance for the Stride family, and revealing Nick, with his permission, as his source, “Lucas.”

Also using Twitter to bring the Stride family’s perilous situation to public global notice is financier and economist Bill Browder, perhaps best known for his successful lobbying of the US government to pass into law the Magnitsky Act, legislation that authorises the US government to sanction human rights offenders, freezing their assets and denying them entry to the country. Browder is also the author of “Red Notice,”an account of Browder’s own experience of falling foul of Putin, his deportation from Russia and his relationship with Magnitsky who was both his lawyer and his friend.

The only coverage of the Stride family’s situation by Australian media this writer has been able to find appears to be this piece in the West Australian dated March, 2018. That isn’t to say coverage doesn’t exist and any links will be appreciated. This is a story of immense interest, given the current global political situation, and it’s inexplicable why the mainstream media aren’t all over it.

The people going into bat for the Stride family against the intransigent Australian Immigration Minister know of what they speak. Weiss is an authority on Russia, and specifically, its propaganda. Browder conducted a highly successful financial career in Russia before being deported. He has also testified to the US Senate Judiciary Committee on Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US Presidential election. Their concern for Nick Stride, Ludmila Kovateva and their children is palpable. And yet, the Australian Immigration Minister, undoubtedly supported by Home Affairs Minister, Peter Dutton, continue to refuse asylum to this family.

Why is this so?

And why are the mainstream media apparently uninterested in the family’s fate?

Since this article was first published this background piece on the Stride family was run by the ABC.

This article was first published at Independent Australia and republished on No Place For Sheep.

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16 comments

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  1. David Bruce

    This article makes me wonder if members of the Australian Government have something to hide over their dealings with Russia?

    Russia, Iran and Syria operate outside the control of the Bank of International Settlements in Basel, Switzerland and the Federal Reserve system. With Brazil, India, China and South Africa, Russia has set up a separate banking system, with their version of SWIFT, their own banks and other support systems. They use gold to settle their trade accounts and obviously upset the Murdoch-Cheney-Rothschild syndicated money system, which we use in Australia. With the petro-dollar, the Federal Reserve, IMF and World Bank controlled by the Committee of 300, headed by Queen Elizabeth II, it must be tiresome to have Russia operating independently?

  2. king1394

    Surely these people meet criteria for asylum – well founded fear of persecution due to political action. Is Dutton and his department treating them as criminals to return whence they came?

  3. Josephus

    Sent to a Russian colleague, and hope he sends it on- this government has no moral compass.
    But could David please expand on ‘the Murdoch etc syndicate’ ? Evidence? Ditto the rest of of his post.

  4. ChristopherJ

    Thank you, Doc. And to you, David.

    We’re not one of them, you know…

  5. paul walter

    Just became aware of the story and wonder if there is a bottom to the lowness of the government.

  6. Deborah Harris

    William Browder is a liar and a crook so I wouldn’t trust anything he is involved in.

  7. ChristopherJ

    America continues to have undue influence in our affairs. I suspect it is a stick, rather than a carrot… but that is my own opinion

  8. mark delmege

    I wouldn’t doubt that there is corruption in Russia or any country for that matter. BHP who recently paid 500 mill to the tax office after being caught in a transfer pricing scam aka tax avoidance now has potentially another 300 mill bill to the WA govt for evading royalties. Anyway I wouldn’t take anything Michael Weiss or Bill Browder has to say seriously. You can check out what Weiss thinks about a lot of stuff from his twitter feed.
    As for ‘Ludmila faces almost certain execution in her home country’. I don’t think so.

  9. Alistair

    Why is his wife being deported to Russia while he’s being deported to the UK? Seems strange unless its to do with the recently adopted and dreadful UK immigration laws restricting the rights of citizens to have their spouses join them unless they are earning a relatively high income.

  10. paul walter

    Alistair, modern regimes do not like whistleblowers and will go to Draconian lengths to make examples of them, regardless of the law or any fair interpretation of what it would expect in a given case.

  11. mark delmege

    Weiss is a political operative of the right and apologist of Israel. Just look at how he judged Assange and Snowden. He’s no friend of whistle blowers.

  12. paul walter

    Hmmm…Thanks for that, Mark.

  13. Hotspringer

    Would asylum here matter? Unless they choose to come by boat, Pootin’s poisoners can come here as easily as to UK.

  14. Deborah Harris

    Author should take note.

    Michael Weiss warmonger.
    https://www.alternet.org/2017/08/michael-weiss-anti-muslim-rally-pamela-geller/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

    https://www.thenation.com/article/neo-mccarthyism-and-us-media/

    And

    “Weiss worked for the neocon organ of Bill Kristol, the Weekly Standard; afterwards, Weiss headed up a neocon PR project, “Just Journalism,” which policed the English-language press for any journalism critical of Israel in the wake of its brutal war on Gaza in 2008-9. Then, as Syria descended into civil war, Weiss became one of the leading neocon warmongers pushing for America to invade Syria. Perhaps most troubling of all when it comes to Pomerantsev’s credibility — Weiss played a lead role in promoting the career of one of the most notorious academic frauds of our time, Elizabeth O’Bagy, the fake Syria “expert” whom Weiss teamed up with to argue for war in Syria. Apparently after O’Bagy was exposed as a fraud with no Syria credentials, Weiss skulked away, only to reappear with a new co-author—Peter Pomeranstev—and a new beat: Putin’s Russia. Despite having zero Russia background and expertise, Weiss has successfully reemerged lately as a Russia expert on various TV news programs — the Elizabeth O’Bagy of Putin critics — and Pomerantsev’s role in this partnership appears to be laundering Weiss’ credentials.”
    https://pando.com/2015/05/17/neocons-2-0-the-problem-with-peter-pomerantsev/

  15. Tass Maha

    Fake NEWS…Stride is not a Russian whistle blower. As suggested by the headline he is British. The British have a less Than impartial attitude and role when it comes to things Russian funny that he gave the documents to an anti Russian journalist sounds fishy to me. The building industry is full of crooks you don’t have to go to Russia to see this just look at the tax evading schemers in Australia and the west. Do you think Trump became rich using Real Estate and Construction without some form of dodgy dealings?
    Weiss is not an expert on Russia…..Bowder is a financial criminal part of the US Oligarchy who had a fallout with the Kremlin
    No doubt corruption has been an issue for Russians and people like Igor Shuvalov who tend to be pro West are not popular with locals…and often seen as traitors. and their days are numbered …However they were popular in the West during in the 2000’s and their falling out after Putin came in and with his attempt to clean the corrupt politicians. He may be in his Cabinet now but for how long????? Putin has a careful balancing act to conduct and time will tell.
    These anti-Russian stories about so called Whistle blowers are a by-product of the Western backed elites losing influence in Russia they are now “spilling the beans” but most importantly they are a mirror image of their own corruption and deceitful operations in Russia before Putin returned hope to that country He still has lots to do….and will be judged by the locals who have become more anti-Western and against their corrupt elite friends in Russia, than ever before ……..BTW The …Kremlin hardliners???? Is a Western euphemism for politicians that aren’t kowtowing to the west.

    The guy is not a political refugee he doesn’t live in RUSSIA he “fled” from Russia and he is British. He didn’t flee for Political reasons he probably fled once he knew he was part of an anti-Russian operation run by Western Financial elite’s who worked with the Russian criminal classes The idea that he will be within Russian reach in the UK and not Australia is laughable. He probably doesn’t want to be in the UK because either the Russian criminal groups that worked with the West are in reach or the British Secret Services will make him expendable like the Skripals

  16. Kyran

    It seems odd the way this story has unfolded. As Dr Wilson points out, the media attention is, at best, sporadic. The ABC was the first ‘national broadcaster’ to take it up.

    https://www.abc.net.au/news/2019-01-19/teenage-daughter-of-russian-whistleblower-speaks-out/10720640

    Today’s Guardian has a similar theme to its reporting.

    https://www.theguardian.com/world/2019/jan/26/british-man-and-family-plead-for-asylum-after-hiding-in-australia-in-fear-of-russian-threats

    The usual oddities become apparent. The actual appeal for asylum is bogged down in weasel words and obfuscation. Whilst the physical threat is considered real, its source is adjudged ‘non-political’ and, as such, is outside the purview of ‘asylum’ considerations.
    Just in this thread alone, the identity of the ‘players’ becomes a central tenet, rather than the message conveyed. It is also apparent the underlying attempts at progress are thwarted in that the sensational aspects become media fodder and the attempts at remedy are largely ignored.
    The article references the Magnitsky Act, which had its genesis in Russian corruption and Putin’s unassailable, unchallengeable position, a veritable 21st Century Tsar.
    Whilst the Act itself was relatively specific in its origin, it became broadened to incorporate legal penalties for corrupt officials across the board, a means by which the traditional processes for dealing with such corruption and human rights abuses, renowned for their inadequacy and glacial progress, could be circumvented.
    We’ll never know if having had such an act in Australia would have enabled ‘whistleblower protection’ for Mr Stride and his family or enabled seizure of transgressors accounts and assets. Our track record on protecting whistleblowers seems to have stopped with the demise of Abbott’s crusader in chief, Jackson. Witness K seems to sum up our government’s position on such inconveniences.
    As Ms Lee wrote several years ago, it was never going to progress under the chaotic captaincy of Abbott.

    https://theaimn.com/magnitsky-act/

    An Aussie polly did try to progress such an act but it didn’t really go anywhere.

    http://www.jwire.com.au/why-the-magnitsky-act-is-important-for-australia/

    “Additionally, for countries that have Magnitsky Acts, the ability to ban foreign human rights violators and often corrupt from visiting and having dealings, investments and access to a country’s financial system, means that a country is better armed to protect the security of its economy and its citizens from the actions of the violators.
    As Geoffrey Robertson argues in his plea for Australian Magnitsky legislation, “If all advanced democracies….adopted such laws and pooled information and target lists, the pleasures available to the cruel and corrupt would be considerably diminished”.”
    The continued push for such an act appears infrequently and is often presented through a Russian prism.

    http://www.abc.net.au/news/2018-02-20/australia-should-introduce-magnitsky-act-aimed-at-putins-cronies/9464060

    If the current shower of wasters even vaguely resembled a government, there may be merit in further discussion. Would our government be accountable for its dealings with Nauru, PNG, Myanmar, the Saudi’s, etcetera? Would the likes of Adeang have all his Australian assets seized? Would individual Australian ministers be prosecuted for human rights abuses if they knowingly enter contracts with these ‘people’ or their governments?
    We’ll never know.
    Thankyou Dr Wilson and commenters. Happy Straya Day, where we’ll confine ourselves to define our values as a hypothetical proposition, devoid of any semblance of reality or actual application. Take care

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