Gold Coast murder
Did the KGB order two frogmen to kill a former operative hiding out on Australia’s favourite beach strip?
It’s the chilling cold case that continues to baffle investigators 18 years after two mystery assassins gunned down Gennadi Bernovski in the driveway of his Gold Coast mansion.
With claims the former highlevel KGB officer was killed by two frogmen (or scuba divers) who used the cover of darkness to ambush him, the case files read like a spy thriller.
Now police are hoping the recently posted $250,000 reward for clues to the killing will finally provide answers and bring the killers to justice.
Gennadi had lived quietly on the Gold Coast since the mid-1990s when he and his wife Svetlana fled from Russia to build a new life on the famed tourist strip, which was about as far from Moscow as you can get.
The couple set up a smallgoods business and had a daughter,g, Victoria,, who was just six years old when her father was killed.
Close friend of the deceased, , Gold Coast lawyer Kerry Salinger, says she had no idea he was “lethal”, but she knew he’d had a death threat the day before he was killed.
Police uncovered an entire secret past to the 41-year-old “big man” and “loving father and husband”, who gave friends and neighbours no hint as to his former life with the Russian spy agency.
“In the initial investigation, police spoke to a lot of people in the Russian community and their information was that he had been involved in the KGB,” Detective Sergeant Cameron Hardham told the ABC. “The information varied as to what level, but certainly it appeared relatively high-ranking.”
And police still suspect Gennadi’s death was the result of a contract hit put out on the businessman,, althoughg there is now a new theory the “frogmen” may just have been assassins dressed in tight, dark clothing and not divers.
Gennadi was taking a bag of garbage out to the bin at the front of his Benowa Waters home on July 24, 2000, when two men emerged from the darkness and shot him three times.
With bullets in his back, leg and buttocks, he managed to crawl desperately to the house, where he died in the arms of his distraught wife Svetlana.
Police discovered Gennadi owed almost $1 million to fellow Russian immigrants after a series of failed business ventures, including a hefty sum to his business partner Oleg Kouzmine.
The former elite spy also possessed multiple bank accounts, in Australia and Russia, as well as Russian and Kazakh passports and military documents from the Soviet era.
Olegoleg, who was also linked to the KGB, told police Gennadi said he was a mafia boss, a common career path for former KGB agents.
“He said he was head of the Russian mafia in Yakutsk and Kaliningrad… he didn’t hide anything,” Oleg told police.
His fingerprints were found on the side gate at Gennadi’s home, but just weeks after the killing he fled to Russia, which has no extradition treaty with Australia.
When questioned at the time, Oleg’s then-wife Ludmilla claimed her husband was at home with her when his business partner was gunned down.
‘He said he was head of the Russian mafia’
There’s also the possibility Gennadi’s assassination was the first of several planned. One of his business partners, Michael Shnirman, found a terrifying note in his letterbox after Gennadi’s funeral. It read: 1. Bernovski 2. Shnirman 3. Starikov There was a line drawn through the name Bernovski.
Michael went into witness protection, while the other man on the suspected hit list vanished without a trace.
Gennadi was gunned down outside his Gold Coast home in 2000.
Gennadi with friend Kerry (left) and wife Svetlana (right).
Oleg fled to Russia, where he was later implicated in an attempted murder. Armed frogmen are said to have approached by water and shot Gennadi.