Golden Ada Company
San Francisco, California
In early 1994, the San Francisco FBI Division received allegations that the U.S. corporation Golden Ada was defrauding individuals and organizations involved in the Russian jewelry industry. Armenians, David and Ashot Shagirian, and Russian national, Andrei Kozlenok established this company to cut and polish rough diamonds from Russia. Golden Ada had received tens of millions of dollars in rough-cut diamonds from Kozlenok's Russian-based corporation, Star of the Urals. The investigation revealed that Golden Ada was the unintended beneficiary of a lucrative consignment agreement between Kozlenok's Star of the Urals and the Russian Committee for Precious Gems and Metals (the Committee).
One of the driving forces behind the consignment agreement was Evgeniy Bychkov, then Chairman of the Committee. At the time Golden Ada was established, Andrei Kozlenok, through Star of the Urals, had a $100 million contract with the Committee to clean, polish, and return to Russia, uncut Russian diamonds. Star of the Urals sent all the diamonds it received from the Committee to Golden Ada, which was a violation of its contract with the Committee. These diamonds were immediately sold for a fraction of their worth. The proceeds received from the quick sale of the Russian-owned gems and metals were ultimately used to personally enrich Bychkov, Kozlenok, the Shagirians and others involved in their criminal enterprise.
Russian law enforcement officials, representatives of the Russian General Procuracy, and a delegation representing the Committee traveled to San Francisco for discussions with representatives of the United States Attorney's Office, the FBI, the United States Customs Service, and the Internal Revenue Service. The Russian delegation stated that the government of Russia considered all assets sent to Golden Ada stolen if the FBI could prove that Golden Ada had sold them instead of returning them to the Committee/Russian Government.
In late 1995, the San Francisco Division had compiled enough evidence to receive court authorization to intercept telephone conversations of the principals of Golden Ada. Among those overheard attempting to manipulate the movement of assets to and from Golden Ada was Committee Chairman Bychkov. Intercepted conversations also revealed that Kozlenok had fled to South America.
In 1996, David and Ashot Shagirian were indicted on three counts of Conspiracy to Defraud, Tax Evasion, and Making False Statements on a Tax Return. Evidence showed they had orchestrated a scheme to defraud the Russian government of approximately $170 million in diamonds and other valuables. Ashot Shagirian pled guilty to one count of Tax Evasion and was sentenced to six months in prison and a $200,000 fine. David Shagirian is a fugitive. Andrei Kozlenok was ultimately arrested in Greece in 1998 for extradition to Russia. Evgeniy Bychkov and Igor Moscovskiy, a former Deputy Finance Minister, were also charged in Russia. The Russian government reportedly seized an additional $320 million in oil, timber, and platinum that had been illegally diverted.
In November 1999, a US District Court Judge appointed a trustee for Golden Ada, in part to address the return to Russia of approximately $12.5 million in precious gems and other valuables. Approximately $168 million obtained through the sale of real property acquired by the subjects of the investigation, was also identified and remains to be returned to the government of Russia.
On May 17, 2001, Kozlenok was convicted by a Moscow court and sentenced to six years in prison, less three years for time served, and fined $1.8 million. Bychkov and Moscovskiy were convicted of abusing their state positions and immediately granted State Duma amnesties.