image

Henry Ergas praises Nazi “Will”

Henry Ergas praises Nazi “Will”

Henry Ergas, “What has happened to the West’s will to win?” (The Australian, 16 February 2024)  criticized lack of US “will” for “victory” in Gaza and Afghanistan under presidents Biden and Obama, while praising Franklin Delano Roosevelt for saying that the World War II task of the US Army was  “breaking the enemy’s will and forcing him to sue for peace”.

Ergas then enthusiastically praised the “Allies” which “ruthlessly crushed the Axis powers, reducing their cities to rubble, forcing their population into homelessness and starvation, and then building, on totalitarianism’s ashes, a shared future of freedom”.

Ergas does not seem to know that the WWII “allies” included the Soviet Union which continued to build one totalitarian system on the ashes of another!

Ergas then paraphrases Carl von Clausewitz about a need for a “second act” after first winning battle. This is the need to ensure that “victory should really be complete” by “shattering the enemy’s self-confidence and shocking the whole nervous system” of its fighting force.

 Ergas writes: “Those are the reasons for pursuing Hamas wherever it hides, including into Rafah. Inevitably, that pursuit entails civilian casualties: that is the tragedy of war.”

Ergas criticizes Biden for beginning to “distance itself from Israel” action in Gaza, which he says is “because the West has lost the will to win”.

But, what do we know about “will” and war apart from Ergas tells us?

Adolf Hitler’s lieutenants, such as Joachim Ribbentrop and Albert Speer, wrote much about his “will”. Indeed, in 1923 Hitler said: “The man who is born to be a dictator is not compelled; he wills it.” The film of the 1934 Nuremberg Nazi Party Rally was entitled, at Hitler’s suggestion, “Triumph of Will”. In late 1942 Hitler ordered Field-Marshall Rommel to hold the line in North Africa, telling him that “it would not be the first time in history that the stronger will prevailed over numerically stronger enemy battalions”.

Josef Stalin told an American journalist that he believed “in one thing only, the power of human will’. Nikita Khrushchev defended himself and others from criticism by saying: “We were all victims of Stalin’s will.”

Mao Zedong’s doctor, Li Zhisui, later wrote that “Mao was the centre around which everyone else revolved. His will reigned supreme.” Mao himself wrote: “Weapons are an important factor in war, but not the decisive factor; it is people, not things that are decisive. The contest of strength is not only a contest of military and economic power, but a contest of human will.”

Ergas concludes his article by suggesting that this lack of Western – particularly American — “will” is being noticed by “Russia, Iran and China” and that there will be severe physical consequences.

In Gaza, Israel is exerting its extreme and cowardly “will” over mainly women and children. Does Ergas suggest that the US and the remainder of the West take a similar approach to Russia and China? They might be surprised to discover that there are also notions of “will” in these countries – and that it is not only amongst their dictators – and that an Israeli-type approach will be met with a “will” to use nuclear weapons rather than the cries of children.

What did we learn from the Tucker Carlson interview of Putin?

What did we learn from the Tucker Carlson interview of Putin?

Carlson’s interview with Putin has been roundly condemned by various Western commentators and officials for having taken place, for Carlson not asking tougher questions, and for Putin’s answers which were sometimes a distortion of the facts. But most of the condemnation has missed the point that the interview added two pieces of evidence that Russia is not going to be pushed out of Ukraine.

Firstly, I wrote about Putin’s obsession with certain types of history in 2011. Several years later I was told that by someone who had worked closely with Putin that my article had been widely disseminated among various liberal leaning government power players who even then were concerned by this.

The article is here: https://www.jeffschubert.com/putins-dangerous-reading/

What Carlson’s interview did was to demonstrate the extent of Putin’s reading and commitment to his views. This is not a good omen for the war ending any time soon.

Secondly, the ability and behavior of Putin in the interview allowed us to more clearly see a man with more knowledge than many have assumed – for example, his answers to the question on AI – and his ability to interact with other people when he needs or wants to with intelligence and some humor. This should not be underrated.

In my book, “Dictatorial CEOs and their Lieutenants: Inside the Executive Suites of Mao, Napoleon, Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and Ataturk”, I wrote extensively on “Why Lieutenants Serve” a dictator. The reasons included: “Excitement, ambition, money, prestige, power to boss others”; ‘Love of the country, the company, or the organization”; Lieutenant is nothing without the dictatorial CEO”; Dictatorial CEO shows loyalty to lieutenant”; and Dictatorial CEO makes lieutenant feel personally needed”.

See: https://www.jeffschubert.com/

All of these factors are undoubtedly present in Putin’s team. But I want to focus here on one more factor: “Lieutenant’s respect, admiration and attribution”. Nikita Khrushchev later wrote that Stalin’s ability to “express himself clearly and concisely” was “admired” by “everyone” and “because of it we were proud to work for him”. Marshal Zhukov — who’s contribution to the defeat of Hitler’s armies led to his very prominent statue (on horseback) next to Red Square — noted Stalin’s “ability to formulate an idea concisely, a naturally analytical mind, great erudition and a rare memory”.

Whatever one might think of Putin’s views, the Carlson interview clearly demonstrated Putin’s ability to present them. This will be a factor in the thinking of the main figures about him – both in the Kremlin and other branches of the government – about sticking with Putin as long as possible.

Movie Script: Russia to Cambodia

Movie Script: Russia to Cambodia

© Jeff Schubert 2023

The story follows Tom Schneider, an Australian living in Russia, who eventually realizes that he must solve the mystery of a black man living in a mansion guarded by armed men with dogs in the most expensive part of Moscow, if he is to find his daughter whom he lost 10 years previously.

………

Michael Patton is a black man living in a very expensive mansion in an exclusive area of Moscow in 2010. He presents himself as an American with large amounts of money in a New York bank and doing “Christian” work helping poor Russians.  His new business partner is Victoria Derbina.

At the same time, Avigail (formerly known as Elena) Litvina is a Russian immigrant living in an expensive house in an exclusive part of London. She presents herself as Jewish and the devoted wife of a British based international lawyer, Neville Stern, and the loving mother of fourteen year old Jessica. While a very successful corporate lawyer, Stern is very weak when dealing with Avigail and she has come to despise him for this.

While Michael’s personality projects calmness, Avigail’s is explosive and she is continuing to leave a trail of physical violence in three countries. She almost daily beats Jessica while also trying to manipulate the child’s thinking.

There seems to be no possible connection in their worlds in 2010 except that Tom Schneider, a white Australian atheist trying to find his daughter in Russia, knows both and understands that both Michael and Avigail are liars and extremely manipulative people.

Michael is beaten after Tom sees him sitting alone in a Moscow park with no money. Tom is beaten unconscious outside his Moscow apartment, but at the time there is nothing to suggest a connection between these two events.

Only five years later, in 2015, when Tom meets Olga Bondareva – a young lying and manipulative women living in Irkutsk in the middle of Siberia – does Tom discover with the help of a Russian police detective that in 2010 Victoria Derbina also knew Avigail who was previously a fellow student in her law class at the Far Eastern University in Vladivostok. Avigail was then known to Victoria as Elena. 

Tom is told by the detective that official police records suggest that in 2010 Michael Patton was involved in high-end smuggling of people – often with criminal records — from Africa via Russia into Europe. The house that Michael had been in was owned by Victoria Derbina who was then fighting to keep it after her husband had been murdered by his own business partners.

In 2010 Victoria admitted to have conspired with Avigail to get Michael’s money from a New York bank, and it appears that that they had arranged Tom’s own beating in order to stop him getting the money first at the request of Michael.

Armed with the knowledge, five years later in 2015, that Avigail is married to Neville Stern, Tom contacts him and asks for contact details of Jessica – the daughter of himself and Avigail (then known as Elena) from their marriage in Australia – who he lost contact with in 2005 when she was eight years old. However, Stern refuses to give this information. 

Tom decides that his best chance of getting information from Stern is to get information tying him into the illegal smuggling of African criminals into the UK, and then blackmail him.

Tom has been an enthusiastic collector of LinkedIn contacts and now – in 2015 – posts a request for any information about Michael Patton. There is no response via the LinkedIn site, but he does receive an email which simply says: “Re: Michael Patton. Try Skyline in Phnom Penh.” Tom eventually tracks down Michael living a quite life in an expensive house in generally poor rural Cambodia.

Michael is ill and not expecting to live long. He tells Tom that there was never money in New York. He had only wanted to impress Victoria because he was in-love with her.

Tom uses some of Michael’s documents to blackmail Neville Stern to tell him where Jessica is. She is living in Israel.

Tom goes to Israel but finds that his daughter is suffering from complex PTSD caused by Avigail’s treatment of her over many years. Jessica lives with an understanding Jewish businessman in an apartment in Tel Aviv. Jessica has fond memories of her early childhood in Australia with Tom and is well aware that her mother has treated her vey badly, and tells Tom many details about this.

Neville Stern and Avigail have been regular visitors to Israel where Neville often has work to do, and when in Israel Abigail makes a point of trying to intrude in and dominate Jessica’s life. Jessica wants this to stop but there seems to be some sort of trauma bond and she finds it almost impossible to say “no” to her mother.

Moreover, Avigail and Neville now have there own daughter who is ten years old and Jessica does not want to lose contact with this child partly because of her fondness for this “sibling” and partly because she fears that her mother will eventually treat her in a similar way to her own treatment.

Tom reads extensively about child abuse and PTSD and thinks lack of contact between Avigail and Jessica is necessary. Tom  must now work hard and show uncharacteristic patience to build a good father-daughter relationship with Jessica and break this contact between her and Avigail.

…………………………..

Characters

Tom Schneider was born in 1965, so was 45 years old in 2010 and 50 in 2015. He is of medium height and athletic build. Looks very fit and has a charming smile.

Michael Patton was born around 1965 (about the same age as Tom) so was in his mid-40s in 2010 and around 50 in 2015. He is of medium height and slim build with signs of greying hair in 2010 and increased signs in 2015.

Avigail (formerly elena) Litvina was born in 1975, so she is 35 years old in 2010 and 40 years old in 2015. She is very attractive, tallish and with slim build. A former champion athlete (sprinter) in Russia. Formerly married to Tom Schneider when her name was Elena.

Neville Stern was born around 1960, so he is about 50 years old in 2010 and mid-50s in 2015. Of medium height and build. Presently married to Avigail (the former Elena).

Kostya Osin was born around 1980, so he was around 30 years old in 2010 and mid-30s in 2015. He is an occasional conversational and drinking companion of Tom. Highly intelligent but slightly overweight as he prefers to “live by hits wits” than engage in serious day-to-day work of physical activity.

Victoria Derbina is attractive, and of medium height and slim build aged in her mid-30s in 2010.

Dmitry Timofeev is Tom’s superior in Irkutsk. An academic. He is a few years younger than Tom but, like Kostya, is on very friendly terms with Tom. 

Veronica Bondareva is 22 in 2015. She is very attractive.

Jessica Stern was born in 1996, so she was 14 in 2010 and 19 in 2015.

Ivan Bulavin is a Russian police detective in Irkutsk, aged in his early 30s.

Noah is Jessica’s boyfriend who she lives with in Tel Aviv

ACT ONE:    (“Where the script writer introduces us to their world and characters.” “An inciting incident that takes place will set the main characters on their journey while building internal and external conflicting factors.”)

Scene 1:

Scene is inside a café situated in park in Moscow. It is quite pleasantly but simply furnished with about fifteen tables arranged in three rows. Some of the tables cater for two people and some for four. A tallish woman (Woman 1) is swinging a chair to hit a man as he puts up his arm to try to defend himself. A waiter runs over to assist the man but is attacked by a second woman (Woman 2). A security guard (wearing a business suit) intervenes and with the help of the man who was originally attacked the two women are pushed toward the door of the café. A crying boy (about 10 years old) follows them.

Tom walks into the café and sees some of the action, but was not earlier enough to see what led up to it.

Scene 2:

Tom is now outside of the café with the two women and the boy. It is dark and raining very heavily.

Tom: “What happened?”

The two women ignore him and walk towards a road where they hail a taxi. Tom follows and climbs into the taxi with them and gets out with them in front of an apartment building. All have extremely wet clothes.

Tom: “So, what happened?”

Woman 2: “I will tell you later. Let’s get dry first.”

Scene 3:

All are next seen inside the main entrance room of a typical Russian apartment. There is a couch, a sideboard and a couple of soft chairs. The women and the boy go to another room while Tom takes off his very wet jacket and puts his wet passport and wallet on the sideboard. The boy suddenly comes out of the other room and grabs the passport, and when Tom tries to stop him the boy starts screaming loudly. Woman 1 rushes into the room and attacks Tom while trying to scratch his face with her very long fingernails. Woman 2 then comes into the room, and several times over says to Tom as she appears to be uncertain what to do: “I’m sorry! I’m sorry!”

Tom grabs his wallet but cannot find his passport while at the same time trying to protect himself from Woman 1 who seems to be trying to scratch his eyes. Tom runs out of the apartment into the corridor followed by Woman 1.

Scene 4:

Woman 2 continues to attack Tom in the corridor. Tom turns and punches her in the face and she retreats. Tom then bangs of the steel door of a neighbouring apartment and calls out “I need police” (in Russian).

Scene: 5

Tom is next seen in a Russian police station sitting in front of a computer. There are scratch marks on both sides of Tom’s face, although more severe on the left-hand side. A cut about his left eye has clearly been bleeding but has now stopped. Nevertheless, Tom dabs it with a handkerchief a couple of times. A policeman is sitting next to him.

Tom: “This is the dating site. This is her. See the long fingernails. She tried to scratch my eyes out!”

Some loud banging is then heard, apparently coming from a room on the next floor as both Tom and the policeman look toward the ceiling.

Tom turns to the policeman and asks: “Is that her?”

The policeman nods.

Another policeman comes into the room and says to Tom: “She says she does not have your passport.”

The scene fades.

Scene 6:

It is dark and Tom steps out of a white Humvee into a flood-light lit yard and almost comes face-to-face with an armed guard with a German-Shepard on a lease. Both walk away as Tom looks around him. Behind the Humvee is a large solid wall with a gate-house which the Humvee has just been waved through. In from of Tom is a very large house with steps leading up to a door. Tom walks up the steps and presses the door-bell. As Tom stands under the light above the door, the cut above Tom’s left eye is clearly visible. The door opens to reveal a slim black man of medium height (who we soon find out is named Michael).

Michael: “Hello. Come in.”

Scene 7:

Tom follows Michael through a large hallway which has no furniture and the then through a door into a room setup as a study. There is a crowded desk at the far end with an open laptop. There are several very large paintings of Jesus Christ and his disciples on the walls. The paintings are not of high quality and seem out of place is such an expensive house.

Michael walks behind the desk and sits down. (Note that at no stage has Michael introduced himself.) Tom sits on one of the two chairs in the room which are situated nearly two meters from the desk with his back toward the door that he has just come through. In addition to the door which is behind Tom’s back there is another door on the right-hand side of Michael at his desk.

Michael (who speaks in a calm very matter of fact and rather charming way): “As I said on the phone, I need you to help me with some banking issues. I want to start a bank here and want you to train the Russian staff.”

Tom: “It sounds interesting. I could do this.”

Michael: “Geraschenko has been here.”

Tom face shows that the name is known to him and Tom is somewhat impressed.

Michael: “I want to do it in partnership with Raiffeisen.”

Tom: “But Raiffeisen already operates here, so why do ….”

Michael answers the question before Tom can finish asking it.

Michael: “I need my own bank.”

Tom: “Oh! There are many banks in Moscow. Where do you put your money now?”

Michael: “In houses.”

Tom: “So you are mainly an investor in real estate?”

Michael: “I have some buildings in the Moscow city center, but houses in this area are safer for keeping money. It is easier to guard.”

Tom: “I saw the guard-dog.”

The camera closes in on Tom’s face as he suddenly seems to understand something.

Tom: “Are you saying you keep cash in this house and so it needs to be guarded?”

Michael: “More than one house. In the cellars!”

Tom has a surprised look on his face, and after a pause asks: “What do you do in Moscow?”

Michael: “I help poor Russians get better and cheaper prefabricated houses. It is the Christian thing to do.”

On hearing this Tom turns his head to have a closer look at the paintings on the walls.

Meanwhile, Michael has turned his attention to look at something on his computer screen.

Michael: “I trade financial markets twenty-four seven.”

Tom, with a note of scepticism in his voice: “What did you do before you came to Russia?’

The door behind Tom suddenly opens and a white women aged in her mid-30s walks in, but retreats when she sees Tom. Tom only gets a fleeting look at her, but his face suggests some puzzlement. Michael keeps talking as if nothing has happened.

Michael: “I was in the US army. A communications specialist. I then came to here to sell cement. But I still have a big corporation in the US.”

The door to the right of Michael’s desk now opens and a black middle-aged women brings in with a tray with some biscuits and puts it on part of Michael’s rather crowded desk.

Michael: “They are always trying to fatten me.”

Michael is now trying to move the tray on the desk and picks up a closed laptop and repositions it away from the open laptop, saying: “I’ve got a new computer and don’t know what to do with this old one”.

Tom, appreciating Michael’s laid-back casualness: “Me too! I have the same problem.”

Michael then stands up and says: “I will get the driver to take you back to your apartment.”

Michael hands Tom a business card and walks toward the door to the right of his desk. Tom follows.

Scene 8:

The door connects directly with large room with a table and several black-skinned adult females are sitting around it. There is a full glass wall and on the other side of the wall a number of young black-skinned children are frolicking in a large indoor swimming pool. Michael leads Tom through this room into the large hallway and to the front door.

Michael: “I will contact you later.”

They shake hands and Tom goes down the steps and gets into the white Humvee which heads toward the gate.

Scene 9:

The scene is the large kitchen of a very expensive house in London. Avigail, dressed in an expensive and modern looking business outfit, is standing in front of her daughter Jessica who is wearing a school uniform. Elena is a few centimetres taller than 14 year old Jessica.

Avigail forcefully takes a mobile phone from the hand of Jessica, and looks at messages on it. She finds a message that she clearly does not like.

Avigail, her voice becoming increasingly angry: “I told you not to talk to Muslims. They are scum. You are Jewish! Jewish!”

Jessica looks down to the floor and then raises her head as if to say something. At that moment Avigail punches Jessica hard in the face and she falls to the floor crying.

Avigail is now screaming and kicking Jessica on the floor: “You will now not have a phone!”

Hearing the noise Neville (Avigail’s husband and Jessica’s step-father) quickly enters the kitchen and says: “Fucking shut-up. The neighbours will hear.”

Avigail turns toward Neville, who now backs-off and even seems intimidated. Neville clearly wants to say something but thinks better of it.

Avigail to Neville: “I’ve told you many times. She is my daughter, not yours!”

A mobile phone rings and Neville goes to a kitchen bench to pick-it up. He nervously passes it to Avigail saying: “Its yours!”

The crying Jessica gets up and leaves the kitchen.

Avigail puts the phone to her ear and listens for a moment before saying: “There is no problem here. Nothing! What is happening there?”

Avigail listens for a while before saying in a firm voice: “Victoria! Don’t let Michael talk to him or anyone else about this. Tell him we will definitely get the money from the New York. Use your charms. Fuck him again!”

A somewhat downcast Neville leaves the room through the same door that he came in.

Avigail listens for a moment, and then says in a lowered voice while turning away from that door: “Neville doesn’t know anything. He is so pathetic. When I get Michael’s money I won’t need him anymore.”

Scene 10:

Tom and his friend Kostya are drinking beer in a bar in Moscow. The bar is modern and there are no unusual features.

Tom: “I went back to the café the next day and a waitress told me what happened. After I went to the toilet a man at one of the tables grabbed the kid’s arm, and told him to stop grabbing things off people’s tables. He started screaming, and Woman 1 got up and swung at him with her chair. And, Woman 2 joined in.”

Kostya: “So before that it was ok?”

Tom: “Yeah! Woman 1 and I meet at the park as agreed. She said that Woman 2 was with her because she was also going to meet her boyfriend there. We walked for over an hour. The boy was hyper-active, almost running around in circles! I actually liked Woman 2 more than Woman 1, and probably spend more time trying to chat her up because her boyfriend never appeared.”

Kostya: “This fingernail woman must be mad. What is the dating site? I will try to find out more about her. She will probably now try to get money from you. Maybe accuse you of taking your clothes off so you could molest her son.”

Tom’s phone lights up and Tom looks at it. He shows the phone to Kostya, saying: “Fuck! It’s her!”

Kostya reading the message aloud: “You are a sexual deviant. After little boys. I want $1000 in compensation or my friends will come after you. We know where you live.”

Kostya, handing back the phone to Tom: “How would she know where you live? Did you tell her?

Tom: “No. But, I have been back to the police twice to ask them about getting my passport. But no luck! They know my address, but I don’t think they would tell her.”

Kostya smiles before saying: “Maybe! Money does lots of things. You need to stop chasing younger women on dating sites.”

Tom: “Funny! You can talk. I only went back to the apartment because I wanted to fuck Woman 2”.

Kostya: “Yeh, but I get to fuck them without getting attacked.”

Tom ruefully says: “I sure know how to pick them! Jessica’s mother Elena also turned out to be violent. Hit me a few times and even kicked me in the groin once.”

Kostya: “At least she was not hitting your daughter.”

Tom: “Thankfully.”

Tom and Kostya both take a sip of the beers.

Tom: “Just as weird is the meeting with this Michael. Have you been able to find out anything about him?”

Kostya: “No. You don’t remember more about the address.”

Tom: “It was dark and I was sitting in the back seat, but I tried to keep track of where we were going. I think it was in some compound on Lower Usovo Road in Rublyovka.”

Tom pauses and pulls out a card from his wallet and gives it to Kostya.

Tom: “Here is the business card I told you about.”

Kostya takes the card and reads aloud:

“Michael Patton, Group Executive Director, Sovereign Group, Sovereign (AGES) Bancorporation, American Modular HITEC, US Global Projects Ltd, American Billex Credits Ltd, 140 Blundell Road, Luton, Beds, LU3 1 SP, UK. Tel: +7499 347 7695, +7926 515 7865

Email: sovereigngroup@live.com and. sovereignagesbancorporation@live.com

Tom: “He rang me a total of three times and the numbers were not those on the card!”

Kostya: “Have you tried sending an email?”

Tom: “Yes. And he did reply but only to say ‘OK’.”

Kostya hands the business card back to Tom and asks: “What about these company names?”

Tom: “Google only show these companies registered at that UK address. Its little more than a post-box. There is nothing about a big US corporation. And Sovereign (AGES) Bancorporation had only been incorporated in the UK on 5 March — only a few weeks ago!”

Tom pauses talking while he takes a piece of paper from his pocket.

Tom: “And, get this!”

Tom reads from the paper: “The directors of AGES are listed as Michristly Gmichael-McPatton, an American born on 1964, and Victoria Derbina, a Russian national born in June 1979.”

Kostya: “Michristly? What is that?”

Tom hands the piece of paper to Kostya, saying: “Spell it out. Mi. Christly. Maybe it means that Me is a Christian? And G for godly?”

Tom throughs up his hands in a gesture showing he does not know.

Kostya: “Fits in with the paintings on the wall in the study!”

Tom nods, and then says: “I am sure that this Victoria Derbina must be the women who came into the study and turned around when she saw me. I am sure that I have met her before, but I just can’t figure when or where. Even the name is familiar!”

Kostya shakes his head: “Another beer?”

Scene 11:

Tom is again getting out of the white Humvee in front of the house where Michael lives. As before there are flood-lights and guards with dogs.

Michael answers the door: “Come in.”

Michael leads Tom to his study which looks unchanged from the previous meeting. Tom sits on the same chair.

Michael: “I need you to fly to New York and withdrawer a heavy amount of money from a bank, buy a large house – just like the one we are in now – and live there.”

Tom is clearly surprised, but after a pause asks: “When?”

Michael: “Tomorrow or the next day.”

Tom: “I am an Australian. I will need to get a visa, and this takes more than a few days. Maybe even weeks. I don’t know!”

Michael, speaking in his normal calm emotionless voice: “I forgot about that.”

There is an awkward silence, before Tom begins to speak: “I have been doing some searching on the internet and …”

Michael cuts him off and standing up says: “I’ll get the driver to take you back your apartment.”

Tom follows Michael out of the study.

ACT TWO:    (“Usually the longest part, taking up approximately 60 pages of the core of the script; this is where stakes are raised as characters face many confrontations.”)

Scene 12:

Scene is an office with a desk with a large computer screen and piles of papers and folders. There is a large table in front of the desk. Tom is sitting on one side with Dmitry Timofeev, his superior at the Higher School of Economics, sitting on the other side. They are both relaxed and appear to be on very friendly terms.

Tom: “I’ve been asked if I am interested in going to China to work at Shanghai University of Finance and Economics. They are looking for a foreigner to head up a research program with the aim of developing Shanghai as an international financial center.”

Dmitry: “Will you go?”

Tom: “I’ve been in Russia for four years now trying to find my daughter. I have been to almost every significant city in Russia and nothing. She will be fourteen now. She may not even be in Russia. Israel is a possibility, but I have not been able to get any possible leads on that.”

Dmitry: “Israel? Why Israel?’

Tom: “When I met Elena in Vladivostok on my first business trip to Russia in 1994 she was not at all religious. She was a champion athlete – a sprinter – and law school; sport and men were her life! When we got married in Sydney my best man was Jewish and she started to get interested in Judaism. Just before she took Jessica to see her ill grandfather who had moved to St. Petersburg, there were several mentions of wanting to be Jewish. She liked the Jewish name Avigail. I thought nothing of it at the time and just ignored it. I have sometimes wondered if she was serious.”

Dmitry, shaking his head: “And she never contacted you in Australia even once?”

Tom: “No.”

Dmitry: “I don’t want to lose you. You are a very good professor.”

Tom: “Three years as an international investment fund manager in Russia and a year teaching banking here is great experience if I was from Europe or the UK, but I am an Australian. China is much more important for Australia than Russia will ever be. If I want to get back working in the Australian financial sector China is the experience to have.”

There is a pause in the conversation as both think for a moment.

Dmitry: “Anything new with Michael the black man?”

Tom: “No. I am convinced that he is a conman. The idea of going to New York to take cash from a bank and buy a house like his was madness. And if he was American, why couldn’t he do it? But, and this is a big but, how do I explain in the house where he lives, the guards with dogs etc.”

Dmitry: “I’ve asked a few people who actually work in banking in this city and no-one has ever heard of him.”

Tom, shaking head: “It is totally weird! Why would an international bank like Raiffeisen want to work with him. And the bit about Victor Geraschenko being there!”

Dmitry: “Geraschenko has not been a Central Bank official for years. I didn’t know that he is still alive.”

Tom: “If it all were real it would be great.”

Dmitry: “Of course.”

Tom: “So, Shanghai is probably the best option. I need to think about it some more.”

Scene 13:

Tom next hears from Michael at the end of May – again from a different telephone number — and Michael wants to meet him near his apartment. Tom waits near the Kuklachyov’s Cat Theatre on Kutuzovski Avenue. Michael arrives in a tan Mercedes station wagon that was probably around ten years old.

Michael, as the car drives off: “This is my personal car. I don’t like to draw attention to myself with something like I sent to get you.”

In his typical low-key way Michael request that he and Jeff not stand on the sidewalk of busy Kutuzovsky Avenue.

Michael: “I don’t want to stand in a public place like this. Can we go behind that building?”

They walk to a lane behind the building.

As they walk Tom asks: “What is happening?”

Michael: “I have some temporary financial problems. Do you know any banks that can lend me some money?”

Tom: “Michael. No-one is going to lend you money. I don’t know what you are doing in that house with all guards and dogs, but I can find nothing on the internet about your big US corporation.”

Michael: “You think that I am not trustworthy?”

Tom is now clearly exasperated: “Michael! I also tried to find out more about those companies shown on your business card. They are new and seem to be registered at some place that is little more than a post-box in the UK.  And who is Victoria Derbina? She is listed as a director of your main company in the UK. Is she the women who came into your study the time we first met?”

Michael: “Yes.”

Just then a mobile phone in Michael’s bag rings.

Michael: “Hello.”

After listening for a while, Michael half-turns to Tom and says: “I need to go.”

Michael then walks away leaving Tom standing alone in apparent amazement.

Scene 14:

Tom is again in the same bar with Kostya.

Kostya: “Hiding behind a building on Kutuzovsky Avenue! Maybe Michael thought he was going to get shot from a passing car? Easy to do!”

Tom’s facial expression indicates agreement: “Well, it would not be the first time such a thing happened. But in this case, would it be because he actually has money or because he’s just a con-man? I wish I could find out what he is doing in that house.”

They both sip beer.

Kostya: “Any more calls from the finger-nail woman?”

Tom: “Yeah! There were a few, but I now just ignore them.”

Tom takes another sip and then says after a pause: “I’ve received a university job offer in Shanghai. I think I will take it.”

Kostya: “What about your daughter?”

Tom: “I don’t know. I think I will never find her. I can only hope that she is happy.”

Kostya: “When do you go?”

Tom: “It only starts in September. So, I will finish this teaching year at the Higher School of Economics in June. Then have a couple months off.”

Kostya: “Its enough time for another beer!”

Kostya wanders off to get beer.

Scene 15:

The narrative now fast forwards a couple of months to July. In those days McDonalds fast-food chain had a very large store situated across a narrow street from a pleasant Novopushkiinsky Park, which itself is separated from Pushkin Square by the very busy Tverskaya Street.

The weather is warmer and Tom is not wearing a jacket as he walks through the park. Tom sees Michael sitting alone on a park bench with a half open leather bag next to him.

Tom goes up to him and says: “Michael! What are you doing here?”

Michael is obviously surprised: “Can you lend me some rubles?”

Tom attitude to Michael is friendly, but there is now a hint of sarcasm in his voice: “What about all that money in your houses?”

Michael: “Victoria! I hired her to do some interior decorating, but she then became my business partner. She betrayed me. She now has taken my house and money with the help of some Russians. There are now new guards!”

Tom, after a pause reflecting on this: “The money in New York bank? The money that you wanted me to get?”

Michael: “Ah! That money. Its gone!”

Tom, with obvious scepticism in his voice: “How? What happened to it?”

Michael said nothing for a while: “They got an international law firm to take it.”

Tom: “The money in New York?”

Michael: “Yes.”

Tom’s voice is still sceptical: “What is the name of this law firm?”

Michael: “Stream Cave or something.”

Tom reaches into his pocket and gives Michael some money.

Tom: “Ok. This is all very strange! I am going to get a hamburger.”

Tom walks away (and the camera follows him) when a women’s scream is heard. Tom turns and runs back to the area where Michael was sitting and sees Michael lying on the pavement. He is not moving. His leather bag is next to him with several mobile phones scattered around him. Two policemen come running up, and one pushes a growing crowd back while the other speaks on his mobile phone. As Tom watches the sound of an ambulance is soon heard. After Michael is put in the ambulance Tom, with a worried look on his face, walks away.

Scene 16:

Scene is the courtyard of a non-descript apartment block in Moscow. There is some equipment for children to play on and some trees.

Tom walks out the door and a man steps in front of him blocking his progress.

Man: “Are you Tom Schneider?”

Tom: “Yes.”

Another man hits Tom on the head with a rod and Tom collapses on the ground. One of them kicks him in the face.”

The men run away and a women and child come running to look at Tom lying motionless on the ground.

Scene 17:

Tom in again in the same bar telling Kostya about recent events. Tom’s face has some fresh bruises and cuts which have been stitched up.

Tom: “I was lucky. The woman who found me was actually a doctor in a private clinic not far from my apartment. She called an ambulance and got me there quickly.”

Kostya: “Michael gets beaten and maybe killed, and then you get beaten. Is there a connection?”

Tom: “I don’t know why there should be. I had only met Michael three times before he was in the park.”

Kostya: “Then that leaves the fingernails! It is not the first time she has attacked people. Its incredible, but she and some partners run a summer camp for children not far from Moscow. Her photos are on the internet site – with fingernails! I found out that last year she attacked a father of a girl who complained about something she was doing. She attacked him and then claimed he had tried to fuck her son.”

Tom: “Wow! What happened?”

Kostya: “She is obsessive. She went to court to get compensation but got nowhere.”

Tom: “Of course, you are still fucking that woman police inspector in her office?”

Kostya: “She bends over with her head and arms on her desk!”

Tom laughs: “Disgusting. Although I have done it a couple of times with women much younger than this one. How old is she again? Sixty?”

Kostya grimaces: “No. Forty three. But her husband must be that old. That’s why she wants me!”

Tom: “I guess if it works for you, then keep doing it.”

Kostya: “After she is fucked all she wants is a couple of Jack Daniel’s. I get freedom on her computer for two hours lat time.”

Tom: “Don’t you sometimes worry that you will get caught? I don’t mean fucking her. I mean getting stuff from a police computer to blackmail people.”

Kostya: “I only go after real criminals with money.”

Tom: “Like fingernails?”

Kostya: “I am stopping her get money from you!”

Tom and Kostya sip some more beer, while looking at two young attractive women enter the bar and sit down.

Kostya: “You want to talk to them?’

Tom: “No. I am not in the mood.”

Scene 18:

Fast forward five years. Tom has returned to Russia from China and taken a job as a professor of international business in Irkutsk where Dmitry Timofeev has moved to become head of a new School of BRICS. Dmitry stands up to greet Tom in his office and they shake hands.

Dmitry: “Welcome to Irkursk! Five years in China! You don’t look any older. Are you happy to be back in Russia?”

Tom: “I’m surprised to be in the middle of Siberia!”

Dmitry: “You will like it – mostly! Winters are very cold but summers are great.”

Tom: “I like China, but Mandarin is an impossible language for me. I put a lot of time into it but I can read very little of what I see around me on the street. At least I can read Russian even if I am very bad with grammar. So, I’m glad to be back.”

Dimitry: “Still no luck in trying to find your daughter?”

Tom sighs: “No, I have heard nothing for over 10 years.”

Dmitry: “How old is she now?”

Tom: “She would be 19.”

Dmitry: “How did you find the women in Shanghai?”

Tom: “Good. I like Chinese women. But I suppose I will now go to back to a Russian dating site”.

Dmitry laughs.

Scene 19:

Tom walks into a cafe in Irkutsk, takes off his thick coat and hangs it on a coat stand next to a table. Soon a young woman who appears to be in her early-20s walks in. She is not wearing a coat. Tom waves to her and she goes to sit at his table. 

Tom: “Veronica. Nice to meet you.”

Veronica turns out to be rather quite, but speaks reasonable English. A waiter comes and they order coffee.

Tom: “Its cold outside. You don’t have a coat?”

Veronica: “No. I need to buy a new one, but I have no money.”

Tom: “Do you have a job?”

Veronica: “Yes. In a café like this one. I do not get much money and I need to look after my mother.”

Tom: “You live with her?”

Veronica: “Yes, and my father. But they are always drunk. He sometimes hits her a lot.”

The camera moves back and the scene shows them talking for a while before Tom summons the waitress to bring the bill.

Tom is clearly interested in Veronica, and says: “No coat? Let me buy you one. I have little cash right now and there is no ATM nearby. Give me your Sberbank account number and I will send you some money.”

Tom opens a banking app on his one phone and does the transaction.

Tom: “There, its done. I hope we can meet again and you will have a new coat.”

Veronica leans forward to Tom and kisses him on the cheek before they leave the café together,

Scene 20:

Tom is in his apartment in Irkutsk. It is spacious but rather simply furnished with a table in a room that is separate from the kitchen. He is reading something on his laptop while drinking a glass of wine. His telephone rings.

Tom answers the phone: “Veronica!”

Voice is heard at other end.

Tom: “Well, if you can’t meet me because of them, then bring them to my apartment.”

Voice is heard at the other end.

About an hour later Veronica arrives with two other women. Neither is as attractive as Veronica. Tom has a glass of wine in his hand when they arrive and when the three of them sit down also offers them wine which they accept. However, Tom very noticeably switches to a bottle of bear and never leaves it on the table.

Tom: “So you are Veronica’s cousins from Novosibirsk? How long will you stay in Irkutsk?”

Tom decides to make a video when they reply using his phone and proceeds to do so. He then notices that because he has already drunk wine and now has poured wine for his three guests, the bottle is empty. Tom  puts his phone on the table.

Tom: “I will get another bottle.”

Veronica: “Thankyou.”

Tom goes out of the room to the kitchen. Veronica and one of her “cousins” pick up Tom’s phone and go to the bathroom together. When Tom returns he notices that his phone is not on the table and he goes to the bathroom door, but it is locked. The two women come out of the bathroom and Tom grabs his phone from one of them. The three women flee the apartment. Tom checks things on the phone, then runs to the neighbouring apartment and asks them to call the police.

It is not long before two uniformed police arrive, one carrying a Kalashnikov.

Tom is clearly agitated: “They took my unlocked phone to the bathroom and transferred money … from my Sberbank account to Veronica’s.”

One of the policemen talks on the phone while the other takes Tom aside to talk to him.

Soon two plain clothes policemen arrive. Tom is clearly pleased that something is happening and is becoming calmer. Tom again explains what has happened to one of the policemen while the second policeman sits at Tom’s desk and starts looking at things on his Tom’s computer. Tom notices this but does not say anything. Soon two more police, one a woman, arrive and take photos of Tom’s passport and finger and hand prints from him. They also take photos of the financial transactions made on Tom’s phone.

When the police depart, one of them says to Tom: “We will come and get you in the in the morning.”

Tom nods, and says: “Thanks.”

Scene 21:

Scene is Tom sitting a room in a police station. It is furnished with rather old and shabby furniture in the form of a couple of desks, a number of chairs and a couch. On each of the desks is a modern looking computer screen and a keyboard. Once again there are questions from a number of police who come and go from the room, particularly from a detective aged who appears to be aged in his early thirties.

Tom: “I still can’t believe that I was so careless. My wine was once drugged when I lived in Moscow, so I was very careful this time to only drink beer from a bottle and I never left it on the table.”

Detective: “At least you got a photo of her passport. How did you do that?”

Tom: “After our first meeting I suggested to her that we might go on a holiday together and asked her to send me a photo of her passport. I was lying, but I thought that I would have more chance of fucking her if I said that.”

The detective smiles as he remains focussed on his computer screen. After a period of silence he says: “Veronica has been arrested in Moscow. They left Irkutsk on an Aeroflot flight early this morning.”

Tom standing-up: “Incredible!”

Tom and the detective, who said his name was Ivan, were chatting when Tom’s phone rings. He look at it and then turns to Ivan: “Its Veronica.”

Ivan: “Answer it!”

Tom listens for a while, before saying: “No. I want all my money back! Bye!”

The phone rings again several times but Tom does not answer.

Tom then asks Ivan: “What will happen now?’

Ivan: “They will bring her back to Irkutsk, and then we will prosecute her in court.”

Scene 22:

Small Russian court room in Irkutsk. Veronica is standing behind a lectern-type stand before a female judge who is about three metres away. The judge is aged about 50 and wearing a black gown. Veronica is crying and Tom is sitting with several other people in a pew-type setting behind Veronica. A plain clothes prosecutor with a large file in front of him is standing and is presenting the evidence. Ivan is sitting next to the prosecutor. There is also a female court-room attendant, but not in uniform. Veronica is not being questioned because she has admitted to the crime and there is also no need for Tom to give evidence.

Prosecutor: “The defendant admits to stealing the money from Mr. Schneider as described in the court documents.”

Judge to Veronica: “You have admitted your guilt, which is to your credit. You have also promised to repay the money you stole to Mr. Schneider starting on … to the amount of ….. per month. If you do not repay the money Mr. Schneider can apply to the court for enforcement and you could be jailed.”

Veronica’s crying subsides and she is led from the court room by the attendant.

Tom has a pleased look on his face and gets up and leaves with Ivan as the court room empties.

Scene 23:

Several days later Tom is in the same café as with Veronica, but this time with police detective Ivan Bulavin.

Ivan: “Veronica was lucky to avoid jail, but she will do it again and then we will put her away.”

Tom: “Great!”

Ivan: “This Michael the black man story is very interesting. I have been doing some digging. Moscow police initially knew nothing about Michel Patton. He did not have a passport with him and so it was impossible to identify him.”

Tom: “So, you don’t know if he was an American like he claimed or from some place like Nigeria?”

Ivan: “Wait! It gets even stranger! He was involved in smuggling Africans into Russia and then providing them with Russian documents so that they could travel to Europe.”

Tom: “Wow! All those black people I saw in Michael’s house!”

Ivan: “The Africans paid a huge amount of money; most of it probably stolen in their country. They got a fake degree certificate from the People’s Friendship University in Moscow, real Russian passports for them and their families, real bank accounts, and a fake registered business or job in Russia. This all costs a lot of money.”

Tom: “How did the police find out about this?”

Ivan: “Victoria Derbina! She came to the park looking for Michael, but only arrived after he was taken away in an ambulance.”

Tom, thinking for a moment: “So, she must have arrived just after I left?”

Ivan: “Yes.”

Tom: “What happened then?”

Ivan: “She was very upset. Apparently, she was in-love with Michael. She wanted him beaten, but not too severely!”

Tom: “Fuck! Why?”

Ivan reached into the left side of his jacket and pulled out a sheet of paper and handed it to Tom.

Tom tried to read it but handed it back, saying: “I can’t read your writing.”

Ivan: “Victoria’s husband was shot while coming out of a restaurant in Moscow. Apparently she needed to find money fast and pay off debts and keep the house. Michael and his scheme probably just came along at the right time. Victoria had Michael’s passport. It was for the US passport – but there was no stamp or any record in Immigration of him entering Russia.”

Tom: “A fake passport? 

Ivan: “Its not so easy now. After Crimea there has been a crack down on that sort of thing.”

Tom: “You said debts! To whom? You said he was rich; or at least had a very expensive house.”

Ivan shrugged his shoulders: “Not known. There was some connection to Vladivostok. Crime capital of Russia!”

Ivan: “Yes, I know. I visited it a few times. Elena, my former wife studied law at the Far Eastern University in Vladivostok.

Ivan: “Really? What year? What is her name?”

Tom: “Elena Stern. The years would be….”

Ivan: “No. This one was called Avigail.”

Tom is surprised: “What do you mean? This one?”

Ivan: “Victoria’s friend Avigail now lives in London and married to some international lawyer. Victoria confessed that they tried to get Michael’s money from New York bank – but it turned out that there was none. Victoria was very angry and wanted Michael punished for tricking her. A sort of lovers quarrel!”

Tom: “Do you know more? What is the name of the international lawyer?”

Ivan looked down at the sheet of paper: “Stern. Neville Stern of Stern Cave.”

Tom is now clearly eager to leave and motions to the waiter that he wants to pay the bill.

Tom: “Any more on Michael?”

Ivan: “He was badly hurt and taken to a hospital. After that, I don’t know. For some reason he did not end up in jail. He probably just died later.”

The waiter hands Tom the bill and he looks at it and hands over some money.”

Tom: “And Victoria?”

Ivan: “Prison. But not for long. She claimed that this Avigail is very violent and organized the beating.”

Tom: “Ivan. I think this Avigail is my ex-wife! She was Elena, but once told me that she wished her name was Avigail.”

Ivan is surprised: “Really? You think so?”

Tom: “That’s why I recognized Victoria! Elena introduced her to me in Vladivostok. Do you know anything else?”

Ivan: “Only that Avigail hated her husband and wanted Michael’s money in New York so she could get a divorce.”

Scene 24:

Tom in office with Dmitry Timofeev, his superior at the Higher School of Economics.

Tom: “Neville Stern was not hard to find on Google. Quite famous. His law firm site even has his mobile phone number.”

Dmitry: “Did you call him?”

Tom: “Yes, but he hung-up on me when I explained who I was and what I wanted. I then sent several emails but got no response.”

Dimitry: “What will you do now?”

Tom: “Well, something strange has happened. I was once an enthusiastic collector of so-called contacts on LinkedIn and actually got over one thousand in Russia. A week ago I send a message to them all asking if anyone knew anything about Michael Patton. Got no response, except that yesterday I got a message on my private email suggesting that Michael Patton is in Cambodia. I sent a reply, but have got nothing back.”

Dmitry is surprised: “Cambodia? Why would he be there?”

Tom: “No idea!”

Dmitry: “I have been to Ankgor Wat temple in Siem Reip and also Phnom Penh. Interesting place. Lots of corruption. Probably even more than Russia. Did this email give any details?”

Tom: “It only mentioned some building called Skyline. I found such a building on Google.”

Dmitry: “I think that I saw that building. It very tall. It has a gigantic red sign on it. Not far from the hotel I stayed at.”

Tom: “It just might be someone trying to be smart with me. Just having some fun. Even if Michael was there, could he tell me anything that can help me convince this Neville Stern to tell me about Jessica? That is, if he actually knows anything!”

Dmitry shrugs his shoulders and throws up his open hands, indicating that he has no idea what to think.

Tom: “I think that I now just need to wait a while. In a week or so I will have another shot at Neville Stern. And, you never know, the emailer might send me more information – if it is true!”

Dmitry says nothing, while Tom appears to be thinking.

Tom: “Otherwise I might go to Cambodia in July. I’ve got nothing else to do.”

Scene fades.

ACT THREE:    (“where the story finally resolves either with the character accomplishing their goal or failing”)

Scene 25:

We see a large 30-35 story building with “The Skyline” vertically written on it in large red letters. Scene then shows Tom entering an office pulling a small piece of wheeled hand luggage.

Tom to girl at office desk: “Hi. I am Tom Schneider. I am booked into here for a week.”

Girl: “Passport please. You will pay with credit card?”

Tom hands over both while saying: “Yes.”

After the girl hands back both and a digital room key, Tom says: “I am looking for Michael Patton. He is a black man, either American or Nigerian. Does he live here?”

The girl sighs and slightly shrugs her shoulders: “We have over 200 apartments in this building.”

Tom hands the girl a piece of paper: “Can you please look up on your computer and see if his name is there? This is how it is spelt.”

The girl takes the paper and reluctantly begins typing on the computer keyboard.

Girl: “Sorry! This name is not here.”

Tom: “What about in the past? Has he ever been her?”

Girl: “Sorry! There is nothing here on the computer.”

Tom: “Thanks.”

Tom leaves with a disappointed look on his face.  

Scene 26:

Tom is sitting at an outdoor café near the river in Phnom Penh drinking a beer. A man is sitting at the next table drinking a beer. Tom eventually turns to him.

Tom: “Hi. Have you have been in Phnom Penh for a long time?”

The man seems pleased at the opportunity for conversation.

Man: “Yes. Three years. Just like most these other retired old guys around here. The place is cheap and many young women. You want to retire here?”

The camera the focuses on two elderly men walking past hand-in-hand with young Cambodian women.

Tom: “Not yet! I am trying to find a friend of mine. He is a black man. Name is Michael Patton. He is about sixty. Will have greying hair.”

Man: “You don’t get many black men here. Nearly all are white. The best thing is go and ask around in bars.”

Tom: “There are so many of them!”

Man: “But a black man will probably be remembered.”

Scene 27:

Scene of Tom walking down street at night with lit-up bars and women calling out “hello” to him. Tom goes up to a girl who insists that he buy her a drink – and Tom agrees.

Tom: “I am looking for a man. A black man. His name is Michael Patton.”

The bar-girl obviously does not know English, and calls over an older women who speaks English, and Tom repeats his question. The woman shakes her head.

Woman: “You don’t want one of my girls?”

Tom: “Not tonight! Are you the manager?”

Woman: “Yes.”

Tom wanders off and the camera focuses on him entering another bar, talking and leaving, and the another etc.

Suddenly Tom hears a male sounding voice behind him and turns around. To his surprise, the voice belongs to a tall person in a short skirt, with large semi-exposed breast and make-up. Tom recognizes this person as a “lady-boy” but does not comment on this. He has other priorities.

Lady-boy: “You are looking for Michael?”

Tom: “Yes! You know him? Do you know where he lives?”

Tall woman: “I think my friend knows him.”

Tom: “Where is she? He?”

Lady-boy: “Follow me!”

Tom follows the lady-boy, who eventually points to a bar: “Ask for Nari.”

Tom thanks the lady-boy and goes to talk to a young girl sitting with several others near the entrance.

Tom: “I am looking for Nari.”

A girl goes inside and a woman come out: “I am Nari.”

Tom: “I am looking for a friend of mine. A black man named Michael Patton.”

Nari: “Why do you want him?”

Tom: “I am a friend from Russia.”

Nari is suddenly very wary: “You are Russian?”

Tom: “No. I am from Australia, but we were friends in Russia.”

Nari: “Maybe I can help? What is your name?”

Tom, as he hands Nari a card: “Yes. This is my name and number for both WhatsApp and Telegram. I leave Phnom Penh in three days, and I really need to see Michael.”

Nari: “I will let you know!”

Tom walks off down the street with many girls calling out to him.

Scene 28:

A four wheel drive vehicle pulls up on an unpaved road in front of a two story modern looking building in rural Cambodia. It is situated among several small typical Cambodian wooden buildings and homes. Tom and Nari get out of the car while the driver remains inside. They walk up a small track to the door of the house and enter without knocking.

Scene 29:

Michael dressed in casual clothes is sitting on a comfortable lounge chair, and does not rise to stand when Tom and Nari enter. Standing next to Michael is a middle-aged Cambodian women wearing normal western style casual clothes.

Tom approaches Michael and says: “Hello Michael. Do you remember me? Tom Schneider!”

Michael: “Yes. I remember. Why are you here?”

Tom: “I need your help to find my daughter. I have not had any contact with her for ten years.”

Michael: “Daughter? I don’t think you ever told me about a daughter.”

Tom: “No. I never did.”

 Michael: “My memory is not the best. I was beaten in a park in Moscow.”

Tom: “I know. It happened just after I talked to you.”

Michael: “Did you? I have never fully recovered. I get lots of headaches.”

Tom: “How did you end up in Cambodia?”

Michael: “I helped many Christian people get passports to Europe. Some people thought Cambodia needed more Christians, so they brought me here.”

Tom wanted to ask more about this, but decided that he needed to concentrate on the reasons he was now in Cambodia and the information that he wanted.

Tom: “What happened to the money in the New York bank?”

Michael sighed: “Never was!”

Tom: “Then, why did you want me to go to New York to get it?”

Michael: “Did I?”

Tom: “In our second meeting in your big house!”

Michael: “Oh! I remember! I had to say those things. Everything was being recorded and I needed Victoria to believe that I had a heavy amount of money.”

Tom continues to stand and is clearly thinking about this for a short period, before saying: “That is why you were beaten? Victoria believed you and wanted the money?”

Michael, with a slight smile: “I suppose. It was my mistake. I was in-love with her.”

Tom takes a moment to further digest what he has heard, and his voice become quite sympathetic in tone: “Do you have any documents which can connect Victoria to your beating or the New York money idea? I remember when we spoke in the park you talked about an international law firm trying to get the money.”

Michael: “I don’t remember.”

Pointing to an old looking bag in a corner of the room, Michael says: “Over there in that leather bag you might find something.”

Tom goes to the bag and opens it. He takes out several old looking mobile telephones and a large brown envelope filled with documents”.

Tom quickly looks a every document, before pausing on one, and then on another, before putting them aside, and asking: “Michael, can I take these?”

Michael: “They are of no use to me.”

Tom moves forward to shake Michael’s hand, and says: “Thankyou. I hope you feel better soon.”

Tom and Nari go out the door and get into the waiting car.

Nari: “I think he will soon die.”

Scene 30:

Tom is waiting in the Irkutsk café and Ivan Bulavin, the young Russian detective, walks in and the two exchange greetings.

Ivan: “I’m all ears! What happened.”

Tom: “Well Michael is alive. Lives in a nice house in a rural area of Cambodia. I still don’t really understand how he got there, but it seems one of his smuggling clients took him there after his beating which clearly has affected his memory.”

Ivan: “Did you get any useful information?”

Tom: “Yes, although some is not so useful now. Remember that you told me Victoria was in-love with Michael? Well, Michael was also in-love with her!”

Ivan: “Really? He told you this?”

Tom nods: “Yes. It’s a pity. Things could have been so different.”

Ivan: “What about Jessica?”

Tom: “I got some documents of which the most useful will be an email from Neville Stern offering to “assist on the issue of funds in New York”.

Tom hands it to Ivan who begins reading it.

Tom: “It’s dated a week before Michael was beaten. I don’t know why it was sent, and it does not on the face of it seem to suggest anything illegal.”

Ivan: “So, its not really useful?”

Tom: “Well, Neville Stern is a really high profile lawyer and he will greatly value his reputation. He won’t want it splashed about that he – and his wife – had some involvement in smuggling rich criminals Africans into Europe, and particularly Britain!”

Ivan: “But he was not actually doing it!”

Tom: “That’s not how I will spin it. Actually, I was going to ask if you could make the contact. Sent an email from Russian police, and threatening to expose him and Avigail. He will not want to be associated with Russian criminal activity.”

Ivan: “No. I can’t do that. If someone in my office finds out they will think that I know how to get some of this money – and they will also want some even if it does not exist! This is Russia!”

Tom: “OK. Can you at least print out the official information that you previously found on Michael, give it to me, and I will figure out a way to convince them to tell me where Jessica is now.”

Ivan: “OK. Let’s meet here tomorrow.”

Scene 31:

Tom with Dmitry Timofeev in his office.

Dmitry: “So, it worked?”

Tom: “Yes. Jessica is in Israel and I have spoken to her via with video. I will go there after the exam period is finished.”

Dmirty: “What will you tell her? Everything?”

Tom: “Yes. She should know who I am and what her mother is!”

Scene 32:

Tom is in an apartment in Tel Aviv with his daughter Jessica and her boyfriend Noah. It is clean, simply furnished with a large book case and some children’s drawing pasted to a wall. 

Jessica is quietly explaining what has happened in her life since she last saw Tom ten years ago. Noah is listens intently.

Jessica: “I wanted to meet you at the airport but I had a sever panic attack. I just cannot leave the apartment when this happens.”

Noah: “The tracking device on your phone contributes to this.”

Tom: “Tracking?”

Jessica: “My mother gave me her old iPhone when she got a new one. She registered me as a fourteen year old and I can’t turn the tracking off.”

Tom: “Why do you keep the phone?”

Jessica says nothing.

Noah to Tom: “After I get my next salary I will buy her a new one.”

Tom, talking to Jessica: “I am so angry! I knew your mother was violent, but I would never have expected what she had done to you. Why do you still communicate with her?”

Jessica: “She is my mother. I know that she is a narcissist, but I have forgiven her. She and Neville now have Rebecca. She is only ten but I care about her a lot and do not want to lose contact with her.”

Tom: “Does she treat Rebecca in the same way that she treated you.”

Jessica: “Noah and I sometimes discuss this. I don’t think Neville would let it happen to his own daughter. But sometimes I think that if I can get better then Rebecca would be better off living with me.”

Jessica’s iPhone lights up and she answers it. When she sees who it is she becomes very nervous. She looks at Tom and puts her finger to her lips signalling him to be quite.

Avigail’s voice on phone: “Switch on your video.”

Jessica obeys, making sure that Tom cannot be seen.

Avigail: “We have just arrived in Tel Aviv. I need you to look after Rebecca tonight while Neville and I go to a function with the president.”

Jessica: “Mum. I can’t tonight.”

Avigail, raising her voice a little: “Why?  I do all these things for you. I gave you my iPhone and Mac, but when I ask for help you say no!”

Jessica: “But Mum!”

Avigail’s voice: “Rebecca. Come over here where Jessica can see you. She does not want to care for you tonight because she hates you!”

Jessica’s face now shows great distress.

Jessica: “Alright! I will do it.”

Avigail: “Come at 5 o’clock! You will need to cook dinner for her.”

The conversation stops as Avigail has hung-up. Jessica just looks at the phone for a while saying nothing.

Tom: “Does she always do this when they come to Israel?”

Jessica says nothing, but is clearly distressed. Noah has a grim look on his face but says nothing.

Tom, is uncertain what do so or say, but the decides a change of conversation is required: “Jessica! You have a Mac computer. You might not remember but I have videos of us together in Australia on my iPhone. Can I air-drop them to the computer? It will be easier to watch there.”

Jessica nods.

Tom takes his iPhone from his jacket and air-drops a video. It is then played with the three of them watching it. The computer screen is not shown but happy voices are heard. Jessica initially smiles but then some distress is evident in her face. She stands up and quickly walks out of the room.

Noah: “A panic attack! The video is too distressing for her.”

Noah: “She gets very nervous when Avigail is in Israel. She sometimes starts to continually watch the door expecting Avigail to suddenly come here!”

Tom thinking: “How did she get to Israel from London?”

Noah: “Avigail and Neville got her Israeli citizenship when they lived in Tel Aviv for a while. Neville is often here on business. He claims that he is great friends with Israel’s president. This seems to scare Jessica.”

Tom: “How did you meet her?”

Noah: “We were both on a online poetry club. Her poetry was always dark, and I wondered why. So I asked to meet her.”

Tom: “Is she seeing a psychologist or psychiatrist?”

Noah: “Sometimes. The say she should stop having contact with Avigail. But this is not easy. Avigail is always trying to run her life.”

Noah points to some child colour drawings stuck to a wall with tape.

Noah: “See those? Rebecca did them and gave them to Jessica.”

Tom nods.

Tom: “Does Jessica know how I found her. What did you tell her?”

Noah: “Only that you saw a photo of Avigail and Neville on the internet and you contacted him to get information about where she lived, and that he gave you my phone number.”

Jessica now comes back into the room, and says directly to Tom: “I will cook dinner. Cooking helps me become calm.”

Jessica leaves the room. Tom moves closer to Noah and lowers his voice.

Tom: “Should I tell her about what happened in Russia. About Michael the black man, Victoria, my beating? How I convinced Neville to give me your number?”

Noah: “Best not to now. Let her get to know you again. She really wants to have a father!”

Tom: “I can see that this is going to be a long process. I must learn patience!”

Noah nods.

Russian-Ukraine lessons on China

Russian-Ukraine lessons on China

Ukraine is now being urged to make 2024 a year of consolidation of abilities before launching a new offensive in 2025. But the reality is that Ukraine will NOT force Russia out of its territory, and its time to draw some lessons in regard to Western policies toward China.

Put simply, the West – particularly with NATO expansion – boosted Russian fears of aggressive containment at the same time as Russia had a president who harbored ideas of restoring Russian greatness. The West cannot control the thinking of Xi Jinping, but it can refrain for boosting Chinese fears of aggressive containment.

Almost 6 months ago I wrote:

“It is almost impossible to imagine Russia agreeing to return Crimea to Ukraine – irrespective of how the war proceeds and irrespective of who is in power in Moscow – because of his historical and strategic significance (particularly naval base in Sebastopol) and the wishes of the local population.  It maybe in Ukraine’s interests to let Russia keep parts of Donetsk and Luhansk in order to avoid having a hostile Russian-orientated population within its borders. Anna Aruntunyan has written that “according to a poll conducted in April 2014 by the Kiev International Institute of Sociology, over 70% of respondents in the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine – where support for Russia was far less consolidated than it was in Crimea – considered the government in Kiev illegitimate.” There is little reason to believe that these numbers have since become more favorable for Ukraine. As for the other annexed regions of Zaporozhye and Kherson, they are not vital to Russia’s interests, but they may be vital determinants of whether or not Putin stays in power. If Russia can retain these, Putin will be able to spin this as a victory for the security of Russia. If these regions are returned – in whatever way – to Ukraine, Putin is unlikely remain in power because these are the only tangible things that his very costly ‘special military operation’ has achieved.”

See my on-line book about the Future of the Russian Economy: https://russianeconomicreform.ru

German Defense Minister Boris Pistorius stated on 19 January that Germany must consider that Putin may try to attack a NATO member in five to eight years, given threats from the Kremlin “almost every day.”

The reality is that Putin is not a great threat to NATO because his domestic policies are a threat to Russia. At this stage the Russian economy looks to be in a good position thanks to Western ineptness in its sanctions policies (even NATO member Turkey ignores them while American friend Saudi Arabia helps keep oil prices high to the benefit of Russian export earnings) and military spending, but looking out “five to eight years” a picture emerges of distorted economic growth caused by that military spending and productivity destroying economic nationalism in the form of “economic and technological sovereignty”, and political oppression. But, it will still have enough military power to defend the majority of its gains in Ukraine!

None of this is a satisfactory outcome for anyone and there will be many regrets, but it is a harsh reality brought about by both Western and Russian bad policy making. Stopping a war is much harder then starting one when attitudes harden on all sides.

But there is more!

I lived in Russia for many years until October 2022 (ten months after the February invasion of Ukraine) and for two years taught a Masters Degree course on Russian foreign policy in Asia at the Higher School of Economics (one of Russia’s most prestigious universities) and have spoken with numerous Russians and visiting Chinese officials. It was universally believed that US policies were pushing Russia and China closer together. There was little Russian interest in Iran and a preference to keep North Korea at arms-length, but we now see how the ideas of NATO expansion have ultimately had an unexpected cascading effect.

I also gave several university lectures in China (Shanghai, Beijing, Shandong) comparing Crimea to the South China Sea, which was enthusiastically welcomed by the students – although I was then officially told to do no more because the issue was sensitive!

See photo: https://www.linkedin.com/in/jeff-schubert-81977092/overlay/photo/

Western countries should not put China in a position where its fears – justified or not – lead it to actions similar to Russian in Ukraine. For example, AUKUS may be a silly impractical idea – only an Australian idiot could believe nuclear submarines will be built in Australia — that will eventually collapse all by itself, but this does not mean that it will not be perceived as one additional threat and contribute to a tough Chinese response.

Me and Colin Rubenstein – an Australian “traitor”?

Me and Colin Rubenstein – an Australian “traitor”?

I first came across Colin Rubenstein of the Australia/Israel & Jewish Affairs Council (AIJAC) in March 2001 – twenty three years ago – when I was involved in a debate with him about the proposed USA National Missile Defence (NMD) system at an event organized by the Australian Institute of International Affairs (Sydney branch).

Unfortunately, the paper that I prepared is no longer on the Institute’s internet site. However, it is still on my own site: https://www.jeffschubert.com/us-missile-defence/

After the event someone – a former senior government official – remarked to me that Rubenstein was a “racist”. The remark puzzled me because although Rubenstein had made some disparaging remarks about various countries in the Middle-East I did not see how our debate would have led to that conclusion. I surmised that it must be his general reputation!

However, it seemed strange to me that Rubenstein would have such strong views on US National Missile Defence (NMD) and push them in Australian media – particularly as he clearly knew little about Russia. His 16 January 2001, article in the Australian Financial Review (AFR), “Exploding Missile Myths”  is here: https://www.afr.com/companies/manufacturing/exploding-missile-myths-20010116-k0jqz

It was clear that Israel would benefit from missile defence systems, with the ever-aggressive US Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, saying that the US was prepared to assist friends and allies threatened by missile attacks to deploy such defences.

But, I argued in the debate that Australia would not benefit the NMD because of the great danger of an anti-missile arms race involving the US, Russia and eventually China

Rubenstein had tried to counter this in his AFR article writing that “Russia is reportedly prepared to co-operate with the US in developing boost-phase and tactical systems which would not directly affect Russia’s nuclear deterrent”. I first went to Russia in 1991 and by the time of our 2001 debate had spent quite a bit of time there and met many Russians in various walks of life — and I had read a few history books!

What Rubenstein was saying was wishful thinking about Russia almost on a par with those people arguing that NATO expansion could not be seen by Russians as aggressively aimed at them. Come January 2024 and we now have a situation where general Russian security fears – some might even call it paranoia — which I covered extensively in my paper for the 2001 Institute debate, have led to the invasion of Ukraine.

Overall, it seemed to me that Rubenstein was more interested in providing security benefits to Israel than Australia.

On 15 January 2024 “The Australian” newspaper reported that Rubenstein “has blasted Foreign Minister Penny Wong’s decision to not visit the southern Israeli towns where the October 7 massacres occurred as disappointing and called for her to reconsider”.

Rubenstein is clearly interested in an emotional PR stunt which could be used to Israel’s advantage as he does NOT suggest that Wong go the northern part of Gaza to see the damage done by Israeli bombing!

Rubenstein also said: “Australia’s failure so far to join many of our most important allies – including the US, UK, Canada and Germany – in publicly criticising South Africa’s nonsensical and cynical case in the International Court of Justice alleging Israel is committing genocide in its defensive war against the Hamas terrorists, despite copious evidence Israel is going to great lengths to minimise civilian casualties under very difficult circumstances.”

There are many countries in the world besides US, UK, Canada and (guilt-ridden) Germany and it is hard to see how it is in Australia’s interests to support Israel’s actions in Gaza. We should remember that it was blindly following the US and UK that got us into the disastrous invasion of Iraq which was pushed by an ignorant cabal which included Donald Rumsfeld!

In fact, in April 2003 Rubenstein said the invasion of Iraq war was “just, necessary and very much in Australia’s national interest”. What he really meant was that he thought it was in Israel’s “national interest”. And, even here Rubenstein’s desire to please the US and bolster the defence of Israel has backfired. The debacle in Iraq strengthened the hand of Iran and consequently of organizations such as Hamas and Hezbollah.

Many people around the world, particularly in the so-called Global South, see Israel’s actions in Gaza as equivalent to – or even worse than – Russia’s actions on Ukraine. Moreover, while recognizing that Hamas carried out a very brutal terrorist attach on 7 October, many Russians that I spoke to (before I finally left Russia 10 months after the February 2022 invasion) have regarded Russian speaking people in eastern Ukraine has being terrorized for years by Ukrainian nationalists and see Putin’s actions as justified.

Is it in Australia’s interests for it to be seen as hypocritical?

I still do not know if Rubenstein is a “racist” (although I have my suspicions) but I am certain that if he was given a choice between the interests of Israel and Australia — he would choose Israel in a flash!

Albrechtsen plagiarises Goebbels

Albrechtsen plagiarises Goebbels

In today’s “The Australian” (2 November 2005) Dr. Janet Albrechtsen makes comments about judges and the anti-terror laws that are very similar to those made by Dr. Josef Goebbels in a speech in 1942 as he tried to stamp-out any remaining judicial independence.

Albrechtsen writes: “It is curious that so many seem to assume that judges make better policy choices than elected representatives. That judges, lawyers and legal academics hold that view is hardly shocking news. After all, law students are trained from their first day at law school to treat judges and their decisions with reverence.”

“Unburdened by that myopic world-view, the rest of us have a sneaking suspicion that outside their narrow areas of technical expertise, judges’ egos outstrip their ability. ….judges are out of touch with what the rest of us think is the right balance between individual rights and national security.”

Goebbels, as related by H. W. Koch (“In the Name of the Volk”) put a similar view:

“Since its very beginning, he (Goebbels) said, the judiciary had been the object of public criticism. Even today, judicial decisions were criticised and dismissed as alien to the spirit of the people.”

“What was at stake here was something fundamental, that is to say the wrong attitude of some judges who were unable to liberate themselves from old patterns of thought. The blame for that, Goebbels told his audience, lay to a considerable extent in the wrong conceptual training received by German law students at German universities. It was an essentially one-sided education and later, when they were judges, they lived their enclosed professional lives without any real contact with the outside world. In short, judges possessed too little practical experience of life. However, decisions felt to be alien to the people had a particularly bad effect during wartime, so everything would have to be done to bring about a change ….”

Russian Adventures: Money, Sex, Violence & the Law

Russian Adventures: Money, Sex, Violence and the Law.

©  Jeff Schubert 2023

Note:  Some names have been changed to protect innocent people.

This is a true account of lies, manipulation, theft and multiple instances of violence experienced by Jeff Schubert and people close to him as result of his activities in Russia. 

In 2010 Michael Patton claimed to be a rich black American living in Moscow doing “Christian” work, while Avigail Stern claimed to be a loving mother in an Orthodox Jewish family living in London after moving from St. Petersburg. Both Michael and Avigail were liars and extremely manipulative people. While Michael’s personality projected calmness, Avigail left a trail of violence in three countries involving Jeff and people close to him beginning in 1996. Veronica Akhmetzhanova was a charming young lying and manipulative thief living in Siberia as of 2022.

Apart from his experiences with these people, between 1996 and 2022 Jeff was beaten unconscious in Vladivostok, attacked by thieves in the Moscow metro wanting his money – but did not get the $US50,000 in his coat pockets – and attacked by a crazy women who stole his passport after trying to gouge out his eyes with her long fingernails.

PART ONE:    MARCH 2010

Chapter 1:  Jeff and Michael Patton (the Blackman) – Millions of $  (Moscow, 2010)

Chapter 2:  Avigail,  the Jewish Mother and Wife (London, 2010)

PART TWO:    WHO ARE THE REAL JEFF, MICHAEL and AVIGAIL?

Chapter 1: Jeff

Chapter 2: Michael

Chapter :  Avigail

PART THREE:  LIES, MANIPULTION AND VIOLENCE

Chapter 1: Jeff, Lavelle and Finger-nails.  (Moscow, 1995-2013)

Chapter 2:  Michael the Blackman – with no money? (Moscow, 2010)

Chapter 3:  Avigail and Jeff – Family Court. (Sydney, 2002 to 2005)

PART FOUR:    SOME CONCLUSIONS

Chapter 1:  Jeff  (Shanghai, Moscow, Irkutsk, 2013-22)

Chapter 2: Jeff and Veronica  (Irkutsk, 2022)

Chapter 3: Endgame!

……………………………..

PART ONE:   MARCH 2010

Chapter 1:  Michael the Blackman – Millions of $ (Moscow. 2010)

It was the middle of March 2010 when Jeff Schubert climbed out of the white Humvee to come almost face-to-face with a German-Shepard dog held on a lead by a uniformed guard. But neither made any attempt to stop him as he walked towards the steps leading up to the huge white house.

Jeff had never been there before and no-one told him where to go. It was just there was no obvious alternative because he was now inside a compound surrounded by a high wall and the manned gatehouse that the Humvee had just driven through.

Sitting in the rear seat of the Humvee, Jeff had tried to keep track of exactly where it was going after it collected him from his apartment in the center of Moscow. He thought he was now in a housing compound on Lower Usovo Road in the very upmarket Moscow suburban area of Rublyovka about 15 kilometres to the West of the Kremlin. He had briefly seen the number 18 on the gate after earlier seeing a 3. So, maybe it was number 18, 3 Lower Usovo Road?

There may have been a bell to ring but Jeff did not immediately see it, so he knocked on the door which was opened by a slim black man of medium height aged about 50. Jeff’s immediate reaction was that he was some sort of servant that an ultra-rich “new Russian” had employed to impress his contemporaries with his wealth and sophistication.

The black man said “hello”, invited Jeff in, and led him through a door into a study on the right side of the large hallway. It was only when the man went to sit behind a busy looking desk and started talking that Jeff realized that this black man was the “Michael” who had called him several times over the previous week or so and had talked about banking. 

Michael now told Jeff that he wanted to create a new bank in Moscow in partnership with Raiffeisen, an Austrian banking group which already had offices in Russia, and that he wanted Jeff’s help in training staff.

Michael said that “Geraschenko has already been here” to discuss the issue. Jeff understood that Michael was talking about Victor Geraschenko, a Soviet-era banker who had later been head of the Russian Central Bank.

Jeff had put an advertisement in the English language Moscow Times newspaper saying that he was a former Australian banker who now taught business English in Russia. What Michael was proposing was immediately interesting to Jeff; particularly the prospect of again becoming wealthy! At the same time Jeff thought the situation odd, so he asked Michael what his background was.

Michael said that he had come to Russia years ago to “sell cement”, had made a lot of money, and now wanted to help poor Russians by supplying cheap prefabricated housing because it was the “Christian thing to do”. Jeff looked around the study as they spoke and apart from one desk, a cabinet, and a couple of chairs, there were only three large paintings on the walls. Each was of Jesus Christ with his disciples. They did not seem to be particularly good representations and, given the house that they were now hanging in, looked rather cheap.

Michael had not sounded particularly educated during the telephone conversations before the meeting, and this impression had not changed – although he found Michael to be quite charming in an unaffected way. Trying to get a better understanding of the situation, Jeff asked Michael what he did before coming to Russia, and Michael said that he had been in the US Army as a “communications specialist”.

Just then the door from the hallway to the study which was just behind where Jeff was sitting opened. He turned to see an attractive dark haired white skinned women – most likely in her 30s – walked in and then seeing Jeff she quickly retreated and closed the door. Michael continued the conversation as if nothing had happened.  

Trying to understand Michael’s bank investment intentions, Jeff asked: “Where do you keep your money now?”

Michael: “In houses.”

Jeff interpreted this answer as buying real-estate, but as the conversation continued, he realized that Michael was saying that he kept large amounts of cash in houses. If true, thought Jeff, this would account for the guards he encountered when arrived.

Michael: “I need my own bank”.

Jeff digested this strange situation for a moment and was about to ask Michael why he needed his own bank when a black women came into the study through a door near Michael’s desk with a small tray of food. After she left, Michael told Jeff that he worked “24-7” (24 hours a day, 7 days a week) and that “they are always trying to fatten me”.

Michael did not touch the food and pushed the tray away. This was not easy because the desk was crowded with several laptops and piles of papers. Michael picked-up a closed laptop and repositioned it, saying:

“I have got a new computer and don’t know what to do with this old one”.

Jeff had recently purchased a new computer and faced the same issue, which gave him a slight feeling of empathy with Michael. In fact, Jeff quite liked Mathew who communicated in a matter-of-fact way with a relatively flat voice.

Further conversation in which Michael talked about his “big US corporation” did not help Jeff’s understanding of the situation.

Michael then said that his driver would take Jeff back to his apartment on Studencheskaya Street in Moscow which was not far for the Kievskaya metro station.

Michael led Jeff out of the study into a directly connected kitchen and then through another room back into the hallway and the front door. It was about 8 in the evening and sitting around the kitchen table were a number of black-skinned female adults watching equally black-skinned children frolicking in a large indoor swimming pool situated on the other side of a full-sized glass wall.

Michael offered no explanation for this scene. Of course, there was no reason why Michael was obliged to do so but the strange combination of the very expensive house and cheap paintings, unexpected variety of people – including the patrolling guards – and Michael’s unusual financial claims had Jeff totally intrigued. And then there was the woman who had briefly entered Michael’s study.

As he entered his two-room apartment Jeff felt some elation at the prospect a change in his fortunes. The previous decade had delivered a number of significant financial and personal blows to Jeff and he found his present situation as a lowly business English teacher embarrassing.

Michael had previously given Jeff his business card. It said:

“Michael Patton, Group Executive Director,

Sovereign Group,

Sovereign (AGES) Bancorporation,

American Modular HITEC,

US Global Projects Ltd,

American Billex Credits Ltd,

140 Blundell Road, Luton, Beds, LU3 1 SP, UK

Tel: +7499 347 7695, +7926 515 7865

Email: sovereigngroup@live.com and. sovereignagesbancorporation@live.com

When Jeff tried to find more information on the internet, it turned out that the only information was some registered address in the UK of the type that was probably little more than a post-office box. There was nothing to suggest that Michael was head of a “big” US corporation.

When Jeff progressively searched the company names on the business-card he found that Sovereign (AGES) Bancorporation had only been incorporated in the United Kingdom on 5 March — only weeks before, with Michael one of two directors under the name of “Michristly Gmichael-McPatton”, with a birth date of April 1964. His nationality was described as “American”, while country of residence was Russia, and address for correspondence was “H.2, Bld. 1/6, Arhangelskiy Lane Moscow, Ru, 101000.

“Michristly”! This was strange, but the “christ” part fitted in with Michael’s words about being a Christian and paintings on the wall in his study.

The other director listed was a Victoria Derbina, described as a Russian national born in June 1979 whose occupation was “investor”. Victoria’s address for correspondence was listed as Bolshoi Predtechensky St. 23-48, Moscow, Ru, 123022

Neither of these physical addresses were anywhere near the house that Michael was in. The other company names on Michael’s business-card gave much the same information about both Michael and Victoria. 

In addition, there were a number of Russian, British and American nationals listed as directors at various times, but Jeff could find no additional information about them.

Jeff was now impatient for Michael’s next call which only came a week later. This time a late model white luxury Mercedes Benz took Jeff to the same address as before. As on the first occasion, the guard in the gate-house raised the barrier when the car approached, suggesting to Jeff that both the Humvee and the Mercedes were well-known.

Jeff thought it odd that Michael used a different telephone number every time he called. Jeff later started writing the number of each new call on the back of Michael’s business card but gave up after writing down three: +7 909 959 5323; +7 964 708 4418; +7 965 145 1173

Jeff decided to ask him about this and had other questions arising from his internet searches, but Michael’s unusual request made him completely forget.

Michael wanted Jeff to “urgently” fly to New York and withdrawer “a heavy amount” of money from a US bank, buy a large house “just like the one we are in now” and live there with large amounts of cash in the cellar.

A stunned Jeff briefly imagined himself walking out of a New York bank with millions of dollars in cash, and wondered how far he would get before some criminal bashed him and took it. It would not have been the first time that Jeff would have been physically attacked while carrying a large amount of cash but he had never before walked on a street with the amounts that Michael was now suggesting. Jeff would need his own guards!

Jeff suspected something illegal, particularly given money laundering laws. Michael clearly did not like banks — or at least if the banks were not his!

Jeff wondered if Michael really understood what a normal bank was. Sure, it was possible for a bank to take cash deposits and leave it in vaults or the cellar. But generally the cash is lent to other people who pay interest at a higher rate than deposits so that the bank can cover wage and other costs and make a profit for share-holders.

But Michael and Jeff were in Russia! “Banking” in Russia was often little more than money laundering and fraudulent activities.  And, on that point, why would a reputable international bank like Raiffeisen want to want to form a bank with Michael?

But Jeff had two problems. He was able to truthfully tell Michael that as an Australian he needed a visa to enter the US, to which Michael simply and calmly replied: “I forgot about that.”

Jeff’s other problem was that he had been physically attacked and deprived of his passport and visa – he was now in Russia illegally!

Chapter 2:  Avigail, the Jewish Mother and Wife  (London. 2010)

Jeff did not know it, but at about the same time as he was attacked in Moscow and having meetings with Michael, a women named Avigail Stern living in an exclusive area in London was beating her daughter “Jessica” aged 14 – as she had done many times!

Now in her mid-thirties, Avigail had been a champion athlete in Russia – a sprinter – as a teenager, and now used her innate physical strength and aggressive disposition against her mild-mannered daughter. She punched Jessica in the face and when her daughter fell to the floor and screamed – Avigail kicked her!

The woman’s husband, Neville Eisenberg, did not intervene other than to say: “Fuck the shut up, the neighbors might hear.”

Neville was a very successful corporate lawyer born and initially educated in South Africa and Israel, but later in the UK. His generally pleasant personality and search for compromise in situations of disagreement and conflict, combined with high intelligence and workaholic approach had allowed him lead the transformation of a UK focused law firm to one with a significant international presence with the ultimate name of Bryan Cave Leighton Paisner LLP.

Although not particularly religious Neville understood the networking power of the synagogue and the Jewish community, and this is where he met Avigail – or more precisely it is where Avigail met him! Avigail had heard about Neville and targeted him at the synagogue.

It was impossible to know the extent of Avigail’s religious beliefs or why she had adopted Orthodox Judaism after a very non-religious secular upbringing in Russia. All who knew her, including her parents, recognized that she had a very narcistic personality and desperately wanted to be admired and considered special.

In truth Avigail was intellectually very talented in addition to her physical beauty and athletic abilities, but her high-handed and often nasty treatment of other people at school and university when she lived with her parents in Vladivostok had not led to popularity. Indeed, her violence had ended up costing her parents a lot of money in compensation and bribes.

Now that she was officially an Orthodox Jew, Avigail did not dress modestly as might have been expected. That would have been going too far, particularly as she sought the attention of many men. At the same time, she had a desperate need to have her conversion to Orthodox Judaism confirmed by marring a “real Jew” – and particularly one with money and status! 

Neville, who had never been married and was a little naïve about women, was now approaching 50 and had decided that he wanted children and was quick to propose marriage to Avigail who was about 15 years younger.

He had been surprised when she eventually told him about her background in Russia with the birthname of Elena, and her daughter who lived with Avigail’s parents who had now moved to St. Petersburg from Vladivostok. But by then Neville was hooked!

After their marriage Avigail had wanted to immediately go to Russia and collect her daughter but Neville, who highly valued education, suggested that 13 year-old Jessica be allowed to finish her school year in St. Petersburg and that Avigail rent an apartment there for a few months to allow this to happen.

The first beatings of Jessica had occurred in this apartment but Neville only saw it for the first time in London. He had been shocked and protested, but Avigail had sharply retorted:

“She is my daughter, not yours!”

Thereafter, Neville’s main concern was to try to ignore Avigail’s violence – although he sometimes said sympathetic words to Jessica and touched her in ways that made her nervous. Once he even followed her to a bathroom and stood outside breathing heavily as she showed. 

Jessica was beaten so often that she refused to participate in school sport because she did not want to change clothes and let other children see the bruises. But Avigail was still not happy. She needed even more control over Jessica!

On two occasions Avigail rang parents of Jessica’s school friends after looking at messages on her daughter’s mobile phone. One time to tell them that their daughter was expressing lesbian feelings in text messages to Jessica, one time to say that her “Jessica” was Jewish and would not associate with Muslims.

Jessica was eventually confined to home when she was not at school and deprived of a mobile phone. Her bedroom was on the third floor of the house and had what is often called a dormer window opening onto the roof. To escape the confinement, Jessica began climbing through the window onto the roof and using an external water-pipe to help her scramble to the ground.

On one of these occasions she began talking to and drinking with a group of young people in a park, and they became her friends. One of these friends bought Jessica a cheap mobile phone so that she could arrange times to meet them. 

Apart from these friends, Jessica felt very alone in the world. Avigail, with her phone calls, had destroyed school friendships. The people Jessica had loved before being brought to London knew nothing of her situation and she had no means to contact them. 

There was only fear in her life – fear of beatings by Avigail and fear of her stepfather Neville Eisenberg with his obvious sexual desires and continual bragging of his friendship with powerful people such as the president of Israel. 

PART TWO:  WHO ARE THE REAL JEFF, MICHAEL AND AVIGAIL?

Chapter 1:  Jeff

In November 1991 while working as a prominent economist in the Australian financial sector, Jeff Schubert went to Russia to see “end of communism” after becoming extremely bored with financial markets. He first went to Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Poland and met many senior government officials with the help of Australian Embassy staff in those countries.

The three East European countries had many of the attributes of a country such as Australia, but Russia was totally weird! There was nothing charming or attractive – but it was fascinating to someone with both economics and modern European history degrees.

Here were people who looked like Jeff living in a strange alternative universe with nearly everything falling apart around them. Public telephone boxes were falling over and the streets were dirty with trash. The shop windows contained stacked empty drink cans and some food, although there was an occasional very expensive clothing shop visited by a few Russians with much money.

Against all this, the spartan but clean foyer of the Intourist Hotel not far from Red Square seemed a small piece of sanity. On his second day in Moscow Jeff met an American aged about thirty siting there. After various adventures in Eastern Europe this man had entered Russia without a visa by hiding in part of a train for no particular reason other than an adventure – or, even simply to see if it could be done! For a while he was stuck in Russia not knowing what to do.

This American eventually found someone who got him a Russian visa and employed him to take cash out of Russia. He said that he was still tired from trying to cope with Russian, so Jeff thought that he was glad to have some English conversation. The American got some alcohol direct from the hotel kitchen with the help of a for a small bribe, and he and Jeff spent several days doing things together including going to a large market to buy some souvenirs.

Jeff could speak or read absolutely no Russian and was always grateful when he found someone on a street who could give him directions in English. In one case it was 15 years old Kostya Orlov. He, and eventually his family who lived in a large apartment just across the Moscow River from the Kremlin, was often to be of great assistance to Jeff in later years.

Jeff was able to make contact with John Helmer, an Australian journalist who had already spent a couple of years in Russia. Helmer invited Jeff to lunch with a journalist named Mikhail Leontiev, an enthusiast for very liberal economic reform. Jeff was effectively lectured by Leontiev on the workings of a “market economy” and would not listen when both Jeff and Helmer tried to tell him that the market economy did not always work in the romantic way that he believed.

Years later Leontiev was very disillusioned with Russian economic reforms and threw in his lot with Igor Sechin, a close associate of Putin, to become spokesperson for the state owned Rosneft oil company. Over subsequent years, Jeff was to meet quite a few people whose disillusionment with the experiences of the 1990’s led them to become, in the end, supporters of Putin.

Jeff met foreign advisers to the Russian government, such as British economist Richard Layard, who had basically arrived in Moscow with no personal knowledge or experience of Russia and prescribed “shock therapy”:

“There was less than 50% chance of this working, but it was worth a try”.

But it was not only in economics that foreigners pushed reckless ideas onto Russians.

Jeff was in Moscow in 1993 when Boris Yelstin attacked parliament. He was staying in an apartment close to the Kremlin and awoke to the sound of large guns being fired. The previous evening Jeff and the young Kostya Orlov had made their way down the Old Arbat Street which had been almost completely closed by barricades hastily installed by people opposed to the USSR and supportive of more “liberal” people such as Boris Yeltsin.

Jeff was shocked when he realized that Yeltsin supporters were shooting tank shells at the White House where the parliament sat. He was even more horrified when drinking beer in a popular bar that evening he heard many Western foreigners hail the attack. Jeff thought that this stupidity by Yeltsin was part of a series of events that eventually would lead to a Russian dictatorship.

After returning to Australia for a while Jeff found work with Pacific Gemini, a fund manager which was mainly working in the Russian Far East. One morning he arrived at Moscow’s Sheremetyevo airport and – as agreed – declared $US50,000 of Pacific Gemini money to Customs because of concerns that it might be compensated if discovered undeclared. Jeff was asked by officials to count out the notes in the airport while being watched by many people standing behind a glass wall waiting to meet arriving passengers. Although a little nervous after this, he caught taxi to a Moscow hotel without trouble.

It was cold when Jeff left his hotel later in the day and he did not want to leave the money in his room where he feared it could easily be stolen by a hotel staff member. He put 10 packets of $US5000 in various parts of his clothes, mostly in his coat pockets.

When Jeff entered the heated metro transport system he unzipped the coat at the front with the result that it tended to flap as he walked. Suddenly Jeff was attacked by around a dozen gypsy-children, but they only aimed for his wallet in his right hip-pocket. He grabbed one of the girls (maybe around 10 years old) by the arm and yelled “thief” many times. A policeman eventually came and Jeff adamantly refused to let-go of the girl even when they were in the metro-station police post.

Jeff did not tell the police about the $US50,000 and kept his coat on and zipped-up even though the small metro police station was quite stuffy. About two hours later, the gypsy mothers came with Jeff’s wallet and all its contents intact and he let the girl go – and, he still had the $US50,000!

Jeff then spent some months based in Vladivostok working for Pacific Gemini which was managed by Andrew Fox and his Russian wife. Jeff impression was that Andrew, a very intelligent man who could be very charming, was playing fairly loose with the money which had been entrusted to him by Pacific Gemini investors. His wife was an accountant and a few years older than him and was probably the person with most influence on equity investment decisions. Andrew certainly was the marketer!

During this time Jeff formed a relationship with a young woman who was a law student at the Far Eastern University. Her name was Elena. During this time Jeff got to know her parents very well. They were very nice and intelligent people, but only her father spoke any English. Their apartment was small but comfortable.

Jeff and Pacific Gemini eventually parted ways over Andrew Fox’s determination to keep investment decision making power totally confined to himself and his wife. Jeff returned to Australia but obtained a commission from a very large Australian based international funds manager, Platinum Asset Management headed by Kerr Neilson,  to return to the Far East to do some investment research.

One morning Jeff walked out of his apartment building in Vladivostok and was confronted by a young man who asked if he was “Jeff Schubert”. The next thing that Jeff remembered was regaining consciousness as a doctor inserted stiches in his face. Jeff had been hit on the head with some heavy object and kicked in the face.

Jeff was to subsequently hear that Andrew Fox was telling people that he had been savagely beaten because of his research activities in the Russian Far East. Only later Jeff heard a story that his former girl-friend Elena had arranged his beating – apparently on the basis of some rumour that he had recorded some of their sexual activities!

Jeff finished his reports and returned to Australia. He was then offered a short assignment by a group of Australian businessmen to help investigate the possibility of activating a dormant electric blast furnace in Komsomolsk-on-Amur in the Russian Far East.  

Arriving in the drab city of quarter of a million people, Jeff and the steel-production analyst with him were taken to a villa largely built from concrete blocks that had been especially constructed for a one-night visit by Leonid Brezhnev who led the Soviet Union from 1964 until his death in 1982. It consisted of a very large general living area and a number of connecting bedrooms and was functional rather than luxurious.

Jeff and the other analyst were taken to a large field about 20 kilometres away where there were hundreds of aging tanks neatly line-up in rows. Jeff assumed that these tanks were to be a source of metal for the electric blast furnace.

Jeff’s co-analyst turned out to be the very secretive – and even devious – type. He wrote with his right-hand and his left-hand positioned in an attempt to stop other people seeing what he was writing – just like a school child! He did not share any of his “electric blast-furnace” technical knowledge with Jeff, and Jeff only found out later that the furnace had been stripped of its electrical components; and that in any case, the armored steel of tanks was not suitable for use in an electric blast furnace. What was needed was more ordinary steel scrap, such as that from old motorcars and whitegoods.

After leaving Komsomolsl-no-Amur Jeff passed through Vladivostok where he again met his former girlfriend Elena. She subsequently went to Australia on a tourism visa and they eventually got married in 1997 and had a daughter named Maxine.

Chapter 2:  Michael

Jeff’s sometimes strange conversations with Michael Patton and his internet research after his March meetings had convinced him that Michael was a con-artist and not to be believed. But, wondered Jeff, how did this explain the expensive house where he met Michael? And how to explain the black women in the kitchen and children swimming in the pool at 8 in the evening – presumably they lived there!

On 28 March Jeff sent a short email to Michael on sovereigngroup@live.com – saying “just making contact” – to which Michael gave a short “OK” reply.

Jeff next heard from Michael in mid-April – again from a different telephone number — and Michael wanted to meet him near his apartment. Jeff waited near Kuklachyov’s Cat Theatre on Kutuzovski Avenue.

Michael arrived in a tan Mercedes station wagon that was probably around ten years old with a Russian woman – who was a decade or so older than the one he had seen enter Michael’s study during their first meeting. Michael explained that this tan Mercedes was his personal car as he did not want to draw attention to himself with a flashy car like the ones that had taken Jeff to his meetings with Michael. The women got back into the car and left with the driver. Michael later told Jeff that he had become “quite close” to this woman, leaving Jeff with the impression that other relationships had become frayed.

In his typical low-key way Michael requested that he and Jeff not stand on the sidewalk of busy Kutuzovsky Avenue but instead go behind some buildings because he did not want to be in a “public place”. Jeff momentarily had a vision of being shot at and readily agreed.

Jeff personally knew two Russians who had been murdered. One was the husband of a woman who was an executive in a start-up type economic consulting business that Jeff had establish contact with about the time of his $US50,000 experience in the Moscow metro. Her husband was a very personable and robust looking “businessman involved in construction” whom Jeff immediately liked. Sometime later his body was found in a forest tied to a tree. He had been tortured to death.

The other murdered Russian was Andey Kozlov, first deputy chairman of the Russian Central Bank, gunned down in 2006. Jeff had first meet him when he was a junior Russian Central Bank analyst trying to understand and analyse financial markets and Jeff offered his assistance. Andrey was frustrated that he did not have a computer. At a chance meeting with a more senior official sometime later Jeff raised this issue and was sharply told: “He will have a computer!” Jeff last met Andrey a year or so before he was killed.

Standing behind an apartment building, Michael said he had some “temporary” financial problems and wondered whether Jeff knew of a bank that could lend him money until he could “sort things out”. 

Jeff was again surprised by Michael’s unreal view of banking. Jeff tried to explain that – in his new life in Russia – he did not know any bankers, and that even if he did there was no apparent reason for them to lend Michael money. 

Jeff then told Michael about his failed internet attempts to find out more about his “big US corporation” and the companies listed on Michael’s business card. Rather than trying to offer some explanation, Michael took offence at being thought “untrustworthy”.

Jeff decided to push the issue. “What about Victoria Derbina? She is listed as a director of your main company in the UK. Is she the women who came into your study the time we first met?”

Michael: “Yes. She betrayed me.”

Michael then said he had to go and proceeded to make a phone call as he walked away. Jeff was tempted to follow him, but instead decided to follow up on an idea he had.

About nine months earlier at the end of summer Jeff had been sitting and drinking beer in an outdoor café not far from the covered Bagration pedestrian bridge across the Moscow River, which connects Kutuzovski Avenue to the main Moscow international business center with its numerous high-rise buildings.

Jeff eventually struck up a conversation with the only other customer – a blackman! He said his name was Adam and that he had come to Moscow from Chad decades ago to study at the People’s Friendship University where he was now a professor of chemistry. He had married a Russian woman and lived nearby. Just as they had finished exchanging contact details a Russian woman appeared walking towards the café and screaming at Adam, causing him to say goodbye to Jeff. She was clearly unhappy.

A few weeks later when Adam’s wife was visiting relatives, he and Jeff had another beer and Jeff was shown Adam’s nice apartment in a building on Kutuzovski Avenue. Jeff got the impression that Adam’s wife was bit of a tyrant, but the two remained quite devoted to each other as he explained that he was “waiting” for her to “return” from her relatives.

After the last meeting with Michael behind a building so as not to be seen in a public place, Jeff called Adam and explained the situation with Michael. He said that he quite liked Michael but really wanted to “solve the Michael mystery”. He suggested that Adam be introduced to Michael as a wealthy potential investor.

Given that Michael had called him from various telephone numbers, Jeff dialled the number from the most recent call.

Michael readily agreed and surprisingly arrived on foot at the agreed meeting place, a small park area not far from Adam’s apartment, a few days later. The meeting lasted about an hour and took a strange turn with Michael continually talking about the “need for air-conditioning” in Africa. As air-conditioning was nothing to do with any of his previous conversations with Michael, Jeff took this to be a pitch to Adam for money on an issue that might interest him.

Adam said that he would call a childhood friend who was now a senior official in Chad to discuss the issue. The meeting then ended up without a conclusion, with Michael saying he would later contact Adam.

“He is from Nigeria!”, Adam exclaimed as soon as Michael was out of earshot. Jeff was less sure. He had met several Nigerians during his years in Russia, mainly younger people who were working in informal jobs after overstaying student visas. Their English had some unusual characteristics which Michael did not have; although Jeff was the first to admit that he had little talent for languages – in fact, he thought he was rather bad!

After Michael later called, Adam told him about Jeff’s reason for organizing the meeting. Michael called Jeff one more time after this and wanted to borrow a very small amount of money to stay the night in a hotel – but Jeff declined. Michael then told Jeff that he was “dishonest” for claiming that Adam was a rich potential business partner.

Chapter 3:  Avigail

At birth Avigail was actually named Elena by her parents, but after she and Jeff divorced in Sydney in 1999 she and her second husband converted to Orthodox Judaism – and she had adopted the more Jewish name Avigail!

In 2002 Australian Family Court Justice O’Ryan wrote in a judgement on custody:

“I am firmly of the view that the child – Maxine (in the time before she became Jessica) – should spend as much time as practicable in the care of the husband”. Adding that if it were not for the amount of time that Avigail had previously spent caring for Maxine, he “would have no hesitation in ordering that the child reside primarily with the husband”. O’Ryan also directed that Maxine be added to the so-called PASS system managed by the Federal Police to prevent her being taken out of Australia.

There was no evidence put forward that Jeff was violent, but considerable evidence that Elena-Avigail was very violent – hitting Jeff on a number of occasions and then calling the police and claiming he had hit her.

A second Family Court case in 2005 led to a different result. Given the results of the 2002 case, and the large number of people prepared to testify about his very good relationship with Maxine – and the fact that Elena was representing herself (that is, was not employing a lawyer) – Jeff decided to save a large amount of money and self-represent.

A “family report” was prepared in 2005 by Family Court employed “mediator” Paul Lodge, a slightly effeminate man aged about 50 with greying hair. He was apparently regarded as something of a guru within the Court because he had written a paper and given a speech at an international conference on the subject of “child alienation” from one parent. He thus had a predisposition to try to both protect and enhance his reputation by fitting as many cases as possible into this intellectual framework.

Under cross-examination, Lodge said:

“The intense and chronic conflict between the parents has began to erode whatever attachment there was between Jeff and Maxine, as is entirely predictable given her age and intensity of the conflict”. Lodge claimed that Maxine “would not suffer serious consequences if she were not permitted to see Jeff again”, saying that “observations of Maxine with Jeff suggested that the relationship was not affectionate”.

This was despite an affidavit prepared by a woman at Maxine’s Sydney Rose Bay Primary School after-school care who wrote:

“In the afternoons when Jeff comes to collect Maxine she always runs up to him to meet him when she sees him and she will not let him talk to staff members or even sign her out. She often says during the course of the afternoon when Jeff is picking her up, in an exited tone: ‘Daddy’s picking me up this afternoon; Daddy’s picking me up this afternoon.”

Lodge had clearly succumbed to the Elena-Avigail playbook of “a woman is distress”, crying and begging for help from the claimed threats and intimidation by her older former husband. During cross-examination, Lodge unwittingly identified the ability of Elena-Avigail to lie and manipulate:

“It emerged almost volcanically in terms of distress, when we were talking about the impact on her of this ongoing conflict that had gone on for years and years. She inferred that this was an attempt to destroy her, and that it was basically emotionally, at least, succeeded in that. But she had had enough. She really just felt that she could not take any more. That is probably the best way of summarising it.”

Justice O’Ryan in 2002 – and the then Family Report writer, psychiatrist Dr. Caroline Quadrio – had recognized that Elena-Avigail was violent, but Lodge had no interest in pursuing such possible facts. In his mind, the only thing that mattered was his own superior judgement base on limited conversations and his theories of “child alienation”.

Elena-Avigail submitted affidavits from people saying that they thought Jeff was dangerous and a threat to the welfare of Maxine. These turned out to be forgeries.

The new husband of Elena-Avigail, Oleg Spiridonov originally from the Ukraine, had served nearly four years in a NSW prison in the late mid-1990’s for financial fraud, and had previously been charged with similar offences in Canada and Queensland. It emerged in the Family Court hearing that he was still actively using three different names on various personal and business documentation!

Justice Steele eventually said that he had no choice but to indicate in his final judgement that Elena-Avigail “she knowingly put forward the affidavit said to be that of Mr. … which was not signed by him and an affidavit of Ms. … not sworn by her.”

This could have led to a charge of perjury and jail!

In his judgement in May 2005, Steele wrote that Elena-Avigail “was an unsatisfactory witness”: “She appeared to present as someone who was uncertain and lacking in confidence and knowledge but seemed acute to any nuances which would assist the version of events which she was putting forward”.

In his final judgement Steele said Elena-Avigail could take Maxine overseas subject to a “payment of a $20,000 bond into a joint account” of Elena-Avigail and Jeff. He said that if Elena-Avigail were permitted to take Maxine overseas, he would “not expect Jeff to make significant efforts either in terms of time or money to see her”.

Jeff asked Steele to make an order to ensure that the Federal Police continued to observe the O’Ryan 2002 PASS order preventing Maxine being taken from Australia while he lodged a legal appeal. Steele refused the request and said he would only grant this after the appeal was lodged. When Jeff objected that “they could leave Australia straight away”, Steele said: “Probably. You better hurry up and get your appeal in”.

“Child representative” lawyers Jane Saltoon and Suzanne Christie (later appointed a Family Court Judge) said nothing in response to this. Days later when Jeff lodged an appeal, Steele told Family Court registry staff to delay the issue. Steele’s Family Court legal assistant (officially an “Associate”) then informed the Federal Police that the PASS order preventing Maxine leaving Australia no longer applied.

Unknown to Jeff, Elena-Avigail, Oleg and Maxine left Australia a few days later.

Jane Saltoon later suggested to Jeff that Justice Steele had “intentionally” frustrated his efforts to lodge an appeal, and thus allowed Elena-Avigail to take Maxine-Jessica overseas — and thus avoid both paying a $20,000 bond and a perjury charge! Saltoon seems to have regretted her – in her own words – “went along with it” approach.

It was later suggested to Jeff that Steele thought Australia would be better-off without “criminal fake-Jews”! This had led Steele to lie and bolster his judgement with claims that Jeff would in future make no effort in time or money to see Maxine.

A few months after Maxine was taken from Australia, Avigail called Jeff twice to ask if he wanted to talk to her. Maxine was not taking the new situation well. Some years later, Maxine’s grandfather was eventually to tell Jeff that Maxine had nearly always lived with him and her grandmother in St. Petersburg and that when for two years he read to her every night before bed, she would say: “I want to go back to Australia!”

Thereafter Jeff was allowed to talk to Maxine a few times, and Avigail tentatively agreed that Jeff could come to see her – and she gave Jeff some details of where they lived and where she went to school.

In June 2006 Jeff went to St. Petersburg and soon found that Avigail had lied about where they lived and where Maxine went to school. With some hard work and a little luck Jeff eventually found where Maxine’s grandparents lived, that she lived with them and that – according to a neigbour – Avigail was there only “sometimes”. No one was home, but Jeff was given a telephone number by the neighbour and was able to meet some of the teachers at Maxine’s school.

It was only when he was back in Australia that someone answered that the grandparents telephone number – it was Maxine! Regular telephone contact was then established with the support of the grandparents.

Thereafter Jeff decided to return to Russia as soon as he was able and did so in 2007. Jeff found work as an English teacher in Moscow and then regularly travelled to St. Petersburg to see Maxine. 

But such visits came to an end in 2010 when Maxine refused further contact with him – for reasons that Jeff did not fully understand until over ten years later – in 2021. The only further information that Jeff had in 2010 was from Maxine’s grandfather who came to see him in Moscow and told him that Maxine now lived with Avigail in St. Petersburg and had also pushed him and his wife out of her life. It distressed him – he had tears in his eyes –and his wife because they had been her primary career since she left Australia in 2005.

Only years later was Jeff to understand what had happened! Elena-Avigail’s marriage to Oleg Spiridonov eventually fell victim to the violence both parties displayed to each other and the inability of her husband to hold a steady job in Australia, in Israel – where they live for a time – and Russia..

After marrying Neville Eisenberg in London – her third marriage – Elena-Avigail reappeared in St. Peterburg in 2009 to claim her daughter who had for all of 13 years since her birth in Sydney been known as Maxine. Avigail immediately insisted that Maxine’s grandparents now call Maxine by a Jewish name — Jessica!

So, in this narrative she will now be referred to as Maxine-Jessica.

After temporarily renting an expensive apartment in St.Petersburg, Avigail was quick to begin beating Maxine-Jessica. When she fled to her grandparents after having water poured over her in bed and being threatened with a knife, Avigail took police to the grandparent’s apartment and demanded that Maxine-Jessica go with her. But she refused to go.

Maxine-Jessica’s grandfather then drove her to stay with friends in a nearby town to protect her from Avigail. This only enraged Avigail further who paid thugs to slash all the tires on the grandfather’s car.

When Maxine-Jessica eventually returned to school, Avigail paid two police officers (one a female) to go to the school, take Maxine-Jessica alone to a room and tell her that “something bad” would happen to her grandparents if she did not sign a document saying that she would live with Avigail.

Fearing the worst, Maxine-Jessica signed.

Maxine-Jessica was soon taken from Russia to London and prevented from having any contact with her grandparents.

Avigail could not understand why Maxine-Jessica was performing poorly at school. After all, Avigail reasoned, Maxine-Jessica was now lucky to be living in London with a real Jewish family – and a wealthy one at that – with a new father, Neville Eisenberg, and she should simply forget about her previous happy life.

“You have to move on”, she would say.

Maxine-Jessica lost weight because her depression caused her to lose interest in eating and she slept little. Unknown to her mother she began a diary which recorded her thoughts of suicide. She was taken to see a pediatrician. Realizing that there was some abuse happening, the pediatrician then referred her to Dr. Gary Townsend (of Nightengale Hospital in London) – a well-known psychiatrist who specialized in PTSD issues.

But Maxine-Jessica was afraid to talk about the physical abuse by her mother because Townsend was being paid out of the medical fund of Eisenberg’s law firm and she was afraid that anything she said would get back to Eisenberg and Avigail.

Townsend had once been in the air-force and suggested to Maxine-Jessica that she join the military to give “structure” to her life. She had Israeli citizenship and, with the help of Israeli government funding, moved to Israel to join the army for two years when she was 20. She “loved” the army because she was told “when to eat, when to sleep, when to go to the toilet” etc. It gave “structure” to her life and protected her from Avigail and Eisenberg.

Maxine-Jessica eventually left the army with a hip injury caused during training which left her using a walking stick for a time. Aside from what she learnt in the army she had no formal educational qualifications and few prospects. Life was not to get better!

PART THREE:  LIES, MANIPULTION AND VIOLENCE

Chapter 1:  Jeff, Lavelle and finger-nails.  (Moscow, 1995-2013)

After working for a year or so with a company providing English lessons to Russian businesses in Moscow, Jeff went his own way and after a slow start found that he could not cope with the number of businesspeople wanting to pay for his English lessons. Jeff struggled to cope with teaching the intricacies of English grammar, but his students were more interested in his ability to engage in conversations on subjects ranging from management, to business taxation and finance, to Russian politics and corruption.

Overall, Jeff was impressed by the energy and intelligence of these people – both men and women – as they attempted to go about their business in a difficult environment. 

Perhaps the most interesting was a man who was CEO of a group of companies mainly engaged in health care activities such as dental clinics and maternity products. He spoke good French and some English. He had got started by importing two large pieces of earth moving equipment from China. In order to ensure delivery – and not be stolen – he had sat in the driver’s seat of one of the machines while it was in the cargo-hold of a large plane as it flew to Russia.

When Jeff encouraged him to speak English by describing his daily activities this man said his first task was to meet with his “head of security” to check on the “security of the business” – and he literally meant “security from gangsters” and not such things as sales or production reports. This, after all, was Russia!

Jeff’s Moscow apartment on Studencheskaya Street, and not far from Kievskaya metro station, was on the ground floor of a typical four-story red brick block and separated from a pathway by a garden with a few very large trees the large trunks of which did not obscure the view of who was on the pathway. Almost every day between 16.00 and 17.00 a middle-aged portly man – who seemed to have an extensive, varied and expensive looking wardrobe – would walk past with 3 small dogs.

Jeff eventually spoke to him when they were both in a nearby small shop where he was buying beer, and they became quite friendly for a couple of months.

Peter Lavelle had come to Russia after doing a PhD in East European politics and living in Poland, where he said he had carried cash across borders for the famous Kaczyński twin brothers. He had a bad experience in Moscow, having been drugged and found under a car with his feed so frozen that “I nearly lost them”.

After witnessing some of the chaos of the 1990’s, Peter had become an ardent Putin supporter saying: “I think he is a great man”.

Peter was host of a television show on RT (Russia Today) and explained that he was well-dressed because RT staff chose and purchased his clothes.

Over the years Jeff had met a lot of people in Moscow, mainly in business but also a few in official positions. Most were stunned when Jeff them about Michael Patton but none could provide further information on him – although one had called several of Michael’s telephone numbers and decided that Michael could not speak Russian.

But Peter insisted that he could get some information because he “worked for the state”.

This comment surprised Jeff given Peter’s knowledge of the USSR, Eastern Europe and communism. Jeff eventually realized that, at heart, Peter was an authoritarian! It seemed that Peter had been seduced by his newfound fame, money and – the possibly of – power. And, like Mikhail Leontiev (at the meeting with John Helmer) the disastrous policies of the 1990’s – implemented with Western encouragement – had led to a conversion from liberal ideas to support for Putin.

In personal life – as on his television program – Peter was very intolerant of people with a different view of things. Jeff was no fan of Putin, but he had experienced some of the 1990s and understood some of Peter’s perspective. After a couple months of friendship, Peter took offense when Jeff disagreed with him on a comparatively minor issue on an on-line discussion group and thereafter flatly refused to communicate with him.

Jeff’s possible informant on Michael Patton was gone!

However, Jeff continued to sometimes look at Peter’s RT internet site. For a while he seemed to conduct part of his personal life on-line and proudly announced – with photos – his marriage to a younger attractive Russian woman, saying that it was a mutual “love of dogs” that brought them together. About 2 months later, however, he was publicly proclaiming that his new wife would continually “disagree” with him and said he wanted a divorce. 

According to the wedding photos, Peter’s best man at his wedding was also one of his regular “guests” on his television show. Oddly, this Russian had at one time served in the US Navy in a lower-level technical capacity. But almost at the same time as Peter announced that he was getting divorced this regular guest no longer appeared.

One day walking on a Moscow street, Jeff found himself walking in the same direction as this man and introduced himself and saying he was once friends with Peter. When Jeff asked him why he was no longer on Peter’s television show, he got the following reply:

“She only married him for money and an American visa. I warned him about this but he would not listen. I was right and so now he will not talk to me.”

One evening in early March 2010 – a few days after his first meeting with Michael Patton – Jeff was browsing on a dating site when he came across a photo of a dark-haired woman proudly displaying extraordinarily long fingernails. Her other photos showed a very attractive woman with her profile saying she was 34. Jeff sent her a message and eventually they agreed to meet at Tsaritsyno Park, which is a very large and attractive place in the South of Moscow with many fountains and Tsarist-era buildings.

The woman, who was taller than average and of slim build, arrived with her very active son – aged about 8 – and an attractive blond female who was supposedly going to meet her boyfriend in the park. The blond actually seemed to have a nicer personality than the woman with long fingernails, and Jeff was initially happy that her boyfriend never showed up.

Jeff spent a couple of hours walking with them before they all went to a cafe inside the park. While they ordered food and drinks, the boy began making a clear nuisance of himself by running between tables and trying to take things off them.

Jeff went to the toilet which was situated in another small building close by. When he returned to the café there was a huge fight underway with – to his amazement – both women physically swinging chairs at other diners.

Jeff left the café when the two women did but got no answer when he asked what had happened. It was dark and pouring with rain and they managed to hail a taxi which took them to a nearby apartment. All four of them were totally soaked and Jeff stayed in the main living room while the others went into another room. Jeff took off his wet jacket and shirt and put his wet passport and wallet on a table in the living room to dry.

The boy suddenly came out of the other room and began randomly picking-up Jeff’s things. When Jeff tried to stop him, he began screaming. The boy’s mother came out of the other room and immediately attacked Jeff, trying to gouge his eyes with her long fingernails. Her female friend made some effort to stop the attack and said “sorry” to Jeff several times.

Jeff escaped from the apartment with his wallet, and banged on the door of another apartment yelling for help because the women had followed him and was still trying to gouge his eyes – and his passport was still in the apartment!

Jeff punched her hard in the face and she retreated to her apartment.

The police eventually arrived and took both Jeff and the woman to a police station. As Jeff explained what happened – including showing photos of woman on the dating site – he heard much noise and banging upstairs.

“Is it her?” Jeff asked. One of the police nodded.

The women denied having Jeff’s passport. Jeff was then taken to a doctor who applied some medication to the scratches on his face.

The next day Jeff returned to the police station but was told the women continued to deny she had Jeff’s passport and there was nothing the police could do about the situation.

After a couple of days when the scratches were less obvious, Jeff went back to the café in Tsaritsyno Park to ask what happened. He was told by a waitress that the son had been running around the café pulling things off tables and had been asked by one of the male customers to stop. When the boy persisted, the customer grabbed his hand. The boy had screamed and this led the woman with long finger nails to attack him with a chair. 

The waitress described the women with the long-finger nails as an “animal” who had also attacked a security guard and ripped his shirt with her fingernails.

Jeff later received a message from the woman claiming that he had molested her son and demanding money as compensation. This would have worried Jeff if he had not been back to the café to find out what had happened, so now he just ignored the demand.

But there was still the problem of the passport! Jeff offered to pay some money to get it back.

Over the next few weeks Jeff received more emailed demands for money which made no mention of the passport. There were no direct threats but the tone of the emails led Jeff to ask a Russian friend for advice. The only concern that this friend had was that the women with long fingernails might be able to get Jeff’s address which he had provided to the police – after all, this was Russia!

 Chapter 2:  Michael the Blackman with no money? (Moscow 2010)

In those days – before the Russian invasion of Ukraine – McDonalds fast-food chain had a very large store situated across a narrow street from a pleasant Novopushkiinsky Park, which itself is separated from Pushkin Square by the very busy Tverskaya Street. The large statute of Alexander Pushkin on Pushkin Square is a popular meeting place with good access to three connected metro stations. It was also a place for occasional political protests and there was always a bus full of policeman parked nearby to prevent this.

If Michael Patton wanted to hide somewhere, this was not the place., although were hardly ever police in Novopushkiinsky Park across the street from Pushkin Square.

On a warm June day Jeff walked through the park toward McDonalds and saw Michael sitting alone on a bench. Jeff went up to speak to him and found Michael polite but non-talkative. Michael’s bag was half open next to him and Jeff could see several mobile telephones.

Several days later Jeff again saw Michael in the park – wearing exactly the same light colored clothes as previously, suggesting that he did not have any other. Jeff sat next to Michael with the intent to finally solve the mystery of who Michael was. Michael remained silent until Jeff pulled out a $US100 note. Gradually, Jeff got a story from Michael – even if it was only partially true!

Michael said that “Victoria” – the woman whom Jeff had seen enter his study at their first meeting – had stolen all his money with her Russian partners. He said that he had first hired her to do some “interior decorations” and that she later became his business partner. She had now taken over his house and hired new security guards.

Jeff: “What about your money in the New York bank”?

Michael did not reply. Jeff did not really believe the story about money in New York – but had sometimes wondered what would have happened if he had been able to go there as Michael had requested.

 PART FOUR:   Some Conclusions

Chapter 1:  Jeff  (Shanghai, Moscow and Irkutsk, 2013-22)

Jeff eventually applied to the Australian Embassy for a new passport and obtained a Russian teaching visa with the help of a small private Russian university where he taught English part-time. Despite the sometimes bad experiences of Jeff in Russia, the people in this small university were very nice. Indeed, Jeff found most Russians over the years to be nice people.

While in Moscow teaching English to businesspeople, Jeff had started an Internet blog on Russian economic and business affairs and had emailed links to various people whose email addresses he had found on various university internet sites and any other possible places. This blog was to eventually lead to more interesting times and opportunities.

But these opportunities were to come after Jeff returned to Moscow after spending nearly two years living in Shanghai.

When Putin returned to the presidency in 2012, and Jeff was no longer able to contact Maxine-Jessica, he began learning Mandarin and eventually moved to Shanghai where he did work as a university and business researcher – including writing a report on reform of the Chinese financial industry for the Australian Chamber of Commerce which was launched at a lunch in Shanghai by Scott Morrison who was then Treasurer of Australia and later it’s Prime Minister. Jeff had never seen Morrison before this but was struck by his bombastic approach and lack of nuance in his speech.

Although the financial return from Jeff’s almost two years of in Shanghai was very low and his Mandarin never really made it past very basic, there was an upside.

Jeff’s internet blog on the Russian economy and business had attracted the attention of some influential liberal orientated Russians. He was offered work at two of Russia’s top universities – a full-time job at the Russian Academy of National Economy and Public Administration (RANEPA) as Director of an Institute for Eurasian Research, and a part-time job at the Higher School of Economics (HSE) where he taught Russian foreign policy in the Department of Asian Studies. 

Jeff’s China experience had turned out to be worth something because he was now teaching HSE Masters-degree students about Russia-China relations!

At the same time there were people at RANEPA and other places who were clearly nervous about some of the things that Jeff had written about Putin – and this included his use of the term “annexation” in relation to Crimea!

But it was not only some Russians who were unhappy. A short series of university meetings and lectures in China had to be abandoned after three – in Shanghai, Beijing and Shandong – because Jeff compared the security implications of Crimea to the South China Sea for Russian and China respectively. The Chinese students loved the lectures because it appealed to their nationalist feelings, but some Chinese officials expressed their displeasure to RANEPA representatives.

Jeff kept building his knowledge of Russia-China relations by attending conferences and meetings – and sometimes found himself to be the only person in the room who was not from Russia or China where the lack of closeness in the relationship between the two countries was often very obvious.

But things moved on and one day while he was in his RANEPA office Jeff received an invitation to speak about the development of Russian technology for international markets. The occasion was a 4-day boat cruise down the Volga River devoted to the work of the Russian Technology Initiative (NTI).  

Towards the end of this “Foresight Fleet” river cruise – named after the forecasting methodology use – Jeff found himself drinking champagne with Andrey Bezrukov, the Russian “sleeper-agent” spy known as Donald Heathfield who was arrested in the USA in 2010 along with the more famous Anna Chapman.

Jeff and Bezukov had earlier disagreed in a working group discussion about the best way to develop Russian technology in business. At the time Jeff did not know his career, but over a few glasses of champagne Bezrukov opened up about his life as Heathfield in the US.

Bezukov did not strike Jeff as a particularly unusual either in intelligence or personality. He was just an ordinary man – and perhaps this was one of the reasons that Russia had selected him to be a “sleeper-agent” spy!

Not long after this, time an Australian delegation of self-proclaimed “greybeards” – to mean experienced and sagacious former officials – led by Paul Dibb arrived at the premises of the Russian International Affairs Council (RIAC). Attending the meeting at the invitation of the RIAC, Jeff could not get a handle on what they hoped to achieve as the delegation’s “former officials” seemed to have little understanding of then contemporary Russia even though one of them had served as a diplomat in Moscow and spoke Russian. They did not understand Russia as an evolving society and economy.

It was the same sort of ignorance that led foreigners – such as Richard Layard – to give bad policy advice to Russia in the early 1990s, and eventually contributed to the rise of Putin.

After Jeff had spent about two years in Moscow a Russian friend from RANEPA, who had subsequently worked in China, had taken a senior university position at the Irkutsk National Research Technical University, near Lake Baikal in the middle of Siberia. Despite its name this was by no means a prestigious university, but some Russian officials had decided that Russia needed to actively push the BRICS concept and established the Baikal School of BRICS on the university premises. Jeff has always thought that the whole BRICS idea was a testament to the power of a silly PR idea to gain popular traction, but was open to a new experience.

Jeff went to Irkutsk to investigate – and stayed! The people he worked with – mainly from Russia, India, China and Iran – were highly intelligent, interesting and likeable. In fact, it was the best work experience of his life!

There were also a flow of visits by Chinese academics and officials and some interesting discussions. One Chinese official who was introduced to Jeff as a “leader” of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), laughingly told Jeff that Chinese understood the concept of “Greater Eurasia” because they read the writings of Russian polemicist Sergei Karaganov. He also thanked Donald Trump for pushing Russia and China closer together.

Jeff at one stage had an international business class of 70 Chinese students whose English was generally poor because Chinese students with good English would have preferred to go to where English was the native language. However, the students could add and subtract, so Jeff whenever possible used accounting data to illustrate what he was trying to teach them. Apart from a couple of students who continually tried to cheat, he found these students very likable – and nationalistic!

Unfortunately, when COVID19 struck nearly all of these Chinese students were temporarily in China for the Lunar New Year – and never returned to Russia.

Jeff’s blog about Russian economic and business issues had also attracted international attention, and in June 2019 he was invited to Bavaria in Germany by the George C. Marshall European Center for Security Studies to talk about the Russian economy.

Various people who attended his talk in Germany were intrigued that Jeff was living in the “middle of Siberia”. “Why would you want to live there?”, they asked.

Indeed, Jeff was also surprised because Irkutsk had turned out to be much different than expected. Yes, it was very cold in winter – generally more than minus 20 degrees celsius and occasionally even minus 40 – but the sun always seemed to be shining during the short days. Summer days were long and often a balmy plus 20 degrees, and sometimes even approached plus 30.

All things considered Irkutsk turned out to be a very pleasant place to live with generally good infrastructure and modern shopping malls and good bars with music.

Mandated COVID19 health restrictions in Irkutsk were mild compared to Moscow and especially to the draconian situation Jeff read about in the Australian idiotic state of Victoria. University policy was that masks should be worn but Jeff refused and no action was taken against him. This may have partly been due to the university rector being required to take a COVID19 test before meeting a visiting Moscow official and recording positive while feeling totally fine while he continued his daily exercise routine.

The drying-up of work and the departure of some of his foreign friends led Jeff to seriously consider what he would do next in life. His thoughts turned back to Maxine-Jessica.

Over the next few weeks Jeff spent hours searching various social media sites looking for clues. One day he suddenly remembered the word “Wild”! He didn’t know why the word now became stuck in his mind – but he increasingly included it in his on-line searches.

When Jeff did find what he thought was certainly Maxine-Jessica on Instagram he hesitated to send a message. How would he cope if she did not reply? What if she blocked him? It was another two days before Jeff finally steeled himself to send a message.

To his great relief, Maxine-Jessica replied the next day. She said she was initially reluctant to reply to Jeff because Elena-Avigail had over many years painted him as a nasty and dangerous person who was best forgotten. Indeed, Maxine-Jessica had only vague memories of her past happy life in Australia, and even had largely forgotten most of the meetings with Jeff in Russia when she lived with her grandparents.

Maxine-Jessica was not in London, but in Israel!

Using on-line videos over the following months, Maxine-Jessica described to Jeff in considerable shocking detail the events of the previous 10 years of her life. Both cried many times!

Chapter 2: Jeff and Veronica (Irkutsk. 2022)

Once again on a dating site in Irkutsk, Jeff contacted a young attractive Russian woman. Veronica seemed very young and her WhatsApp messages and talk at their first meeting suggested that she was very intelligent but very poor. She said that she had a job as a waitress in a café in what was considered a down-trodden area in the northern part of Irkutsk, but it was not enough money to leave home and get away from her parents who were “always drunk”.

Few people would have regarded Jeff as a particularly “caring” sort of person and he was known for “calling a spade a spade”. But Jeff’s childhood had been very tough and he had later been through some difficult financial and emotional times in his life and could be quite sympathetic and generous to people whom he considered to really “be in need of help”. So, Veronica’s story had some effect on him. 

At their second meeting, again in a “Papa Johns” pizza restaurant near Jeff’s apartment, Veronica brought her “sister” which Jeff thought a bit odd but passed it off as inconsequential. It was nearly summer and Jeff suggested that they go to some holiday place together, and that she send him a photo of her passport so he could make an on-line booking. Veronica then sent him a photo of her passport which indicated that she was 21.

In reality Jeff was already suspicious about Veronica and wanted official information about her. He had no intention of paying for a holiday for her.

But Jeff was also sloppy!

Veronica never arrived at a third planned meeting, saying that she had been in a taxi which had a crash because the driver was drunk. She claimed to be in hospital and even sent a photo of herself lying in a bed. Over the years Jeff had been hospitalized twice in Russia and to him the photo seemed odd, but again he decided that the issue was not important.

Just fifteen minutes prior to their next meeting some weeks later, Veronica texted that she had to cancel because her two “cousins” would arrive from another city. Jeff invited them all to his apartment.

Wary of being drugged – as had happened in Moscow in the mid-1990s – Jeff drank only beer from a narrow top bottle held in his hand while the women drank red wine from glasses. Jeff thought that Veronica’s “cousins” seemed almost too nice – with much almost crocodile-type smiling but little conversation – and he began to wish he had not invited them.

For some reason Veronica and one of her “cousins” went together to his apartment bathroom. Jeff thought little of it until they did it a second time and he realized that his unlocked mobile phone – which he had used to take some photos – was no longer on the table. He tried to open the bathroom door but it was locked.

When they came out of the bathroom, Jeff immediately grabbed his phone and could see that some kind of transaction had occurred with his Sberbank account.

All three women then fled the apartment, although the “cousin” who had not been in the bathroom hesitated for a moment and Jeff later regretted that he had not grabbed her by the arm and dragged her onto the lockable balcony.

Running to another apartment, Jeff begged the occupants to call the police. Two officers eventually arrived, with one holding a Kalashnikov.  While he explained to two officers what had happened – a significant amount of money had been transferred from his Sberbank account – a third officer arrived unannounced and began rummaged through Jeff’s laptop. Jeff was then glad that there were no incriminating photos of any sort on it.

Soon a two-person forensic team arrived. Photos of both the apartment and Jeff were taken and he was both finger-printed and prints taken of both hand palms. Jeff eventually got to bed about four hours later, and the next morning went to a follow-up interview at a regional police station. There were a number of officers who came and went from the meeting at various times.

Some of the police seemed a little sceptical of Jeff’s story and he recounted what had happened to several different officers over the next couple of hours. It was around mid-day when one young detective sitting in front of a computer began smiling.

Thanks to a very efficient police communication network – and probably lack of separate legal jurisdictions – Veronica and her “cousins” had been arrested in a Moscow airport that morning after a 6-hour flight from Irkutsk. It turned out she was only 17 years old. Veronica had “photoshopped” the passport photo which she had earlier sent to Jeff to show that she was 21– the passport number had not been changed, only her birth date!

Veronica then spent a couple of days in custody in Moscow sending Jeff numerous WhatsApp messages offering some sort of compromise deal in which she paid the money over a period of time. Even though she quickly sent some of the money, she did not send even half of it so Jeff rejected a deal. Veronica was eventually returned to Irkutsk under police guard and was held in jail for several days while police investigated further.

Both Veronica and Jeff were taken back to Jeff’s apartment to re-enact part of the events while photos were taken. Jeff was surprised how cooperative she was but she also seemed a little shocked about the situation that she was now in.

After much work and several more meetings with Jeff, the police put together an impressive looking case brief around 2 centimeters thick. Jeff was asked to review it to check for mistakes and was very impressed with the professional approach. It was not the first time that he had been impressed by Russian police involved in low-level criminal matters.

A date was set for Veronica to appear in court several weeks later after she was released on bail. During the court hearing it emerged that Veronica had seen and memorized Jeff’s Sberbank access code in the App on his phone during the first time that they had met. What she then needed was access to his mobile phone when it was unlocked so that she could open the Sberbank App and make a transfer from Jeff’s account to hers.

This had clearly been a reason for bringing her “sister” to the second meeting and the “cousins” to Jeff’s apartment.

Strangely, Jeff admired Veronica’s audacity in transferring money from his Sberbank account to hers, even though such stupidity resulted in a “paper trail”.  

At one stage Veronica told the police that the money had been transferred in return for sex in – of all places – the bathroom while the “cousins” waited in the main living room. There was a single bed set against a wall in this large living room which was occasionally used by one of Jeff’s friends – who had his own door key – when he wanted to escape his wife and meet one of his girlfriends, and Veronica and her “cousins” probably assumed that this was Jeff’s bed. In fact there was also another room with a large double bed where Jeff slept.

The very young Veronica probably hoped to disappear into the vast Moscow urban space with little understanding of its monetary costs and consequences. 

The court date finally arrived and Jeff was present with an Russian interpreter from the university. The court room was a rather small room on an upper floor of a non-descript building although set out in much the same way as a typical Australian court. There was no barred cage as often appears to be the case on televised news reports of Russian court activities.

It was revealed that Veronica had a very extensive criminal history, with shoplifting and other stealing offences beginning at a very young age. In this case a very tearful Veronica admitted her guilt to the court, and her nose started bleeding – possibly from stress! Veronica’s mother – who had clearly been drinking – was present in the court and the female judge directed a lot of adverse commentary at her for being a poor example to her daughter.

Veronica promised to repay the money to Jeff and a separate future court hearing was planned that would consider Veronica’s intent and ability to repay the money. Jeff was so far pleased about how things were proceeding!

But it turned out that Jeff would need to prepare an official claim with legal assistance for this future hearing, which he eventually decided not to do given the cost and great doubts about whether any judgement in his favor could be enforced. Veronica might go to prison if she could not pay, but apart from revenge this was of little use to Jeff.

Moreover, Jeff was expecting to soon leave Russia!

Chapter 3:  Endgame!!

Jeff made a plan to visit Maxine-Jessica in July 2022, but in May again injured his back while exercising in his regular gym and was little more than bed-ridden for over a month.

During this time Jeff received an invitation to go to New Delhi in October to speak on Russia-China relations at an internal conference organized by the Centre for Contemporary China Studies, Indian Ministry of External Affairs. He was specifically asked to talk about the war in Ukraine and the relationship between Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping. Jeff perceived the latter part of the request to be related to book he had written on dictators – “Dictatorial CEOs and their Lieutenants: Inside the Executive suites of Stalin, Hitler, Napoleon, Mao, Mussolini and Ataturk. 

Since the “annexation” of Crimea in 2014, Jeff had noticed a slowly increasing unwillingness of Russians to directly criticize Putin or the Russian authorities. Even when he was teaching Russian foreign policy in the Asian Department of the Higher School of Economics (HSE) some students would openly say “we don’t trust our government”.

But the effect of the officially announced “special military operation” (SMO or SVO) and banning of the word “war” was immediate and pervasive. People whom Jeff knew well would use the term SVO in private conversations with him even when he clearly referred to “war”. To Jeff it sometimes seemed to be practice to prevent them accidently using the “war” word when around someone who might report them at work or overhear a conversation in a café – or even see something on social media!

This is not to say that there were not SvO supporters. Jeff knew and met quite a few, and they were sometimes young and highly educated.  The ongoing violence in Eastern Ukraine since 2014 was regarded by many as a “terrorist” attack on “Russians” – and by extension Russia! For many of these people this was no different from a terror attack from Gaza on Israel.

Jeff thought – and even told Russians – that “Western” sanctions would have a very severe effect on the Russian economy. Some Russians hit back at him saying that Russians were historically used to hardship. Russians would stick together. There was little sense of panic or real concern.

Of course, Jeff was wrong about the short-term effect of sanctions, but Russia has got itself into a longer-term economic mess. This is now a story for another time.

After deciding that it was best not to return to Russia after his New Delhi speech Jeff went to Australia. In late November 2022 he then went to Israel – where Maxine-Jessica lived with her partner.

Cardinal Pell and David McBride

Cardinal Pell and David McBride

Why was Cardinal Pell convicted of sex crimes against a minor? And will McBride be convicted by the same “corrupt” Australian legal system?

The idea that Pell was guilty was pushed by gullible and biased journalists and commentators, such as Peter FitzSimmons (See left-hand column for his views on Pell) and accepted by a jury and a host of judges who lacked the analytical ability to see that some of the allegations were almost physically impossible while others were highly unlikely.

But, the core reason that Pell was convicted was that accusations were given in secret, and away from any member of the public who might be able to say they knew something about the accuser that suggested he was a liar.

The psychology of secret courts will almost always allow injustices. See:

Psychology of Secret Courts / Military Tribunals

We are now seeing the case of David McBride accused of leaking confidential military information to the media.

The first thing to doubt is the basic intelligence of the people in the so-called “security” community making the allegations. I have met people in the security communities while living and working in Australia, Russia (including spies), and China. On the whole they rarely have highly sophisticated minds. One only has to look at the low quality of the written work of most Australian security analysts after they find new employment as journalists or in think-tanks. And, then there are Australia’s Air Chief Marshal Houston (see blogs in left-hand column) and Major-General Cantwell (also see blog in left-hand column) –both men in powerful security positions displaying foolishness. And remember the fairy-tale about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The second thing to doubt is the ability of juries to grasp more than quite basic issues in life and put aside emotions. Most people are just too stupid! Anyone who doubts this has not lived!

The third thing to doubt is the quality of judges. I have already mentioned the Pell case. What about ACT Supreme Court judge David Mossop who is presiding in the McBride trial.

According to a 2 May 2013 by then ACT Attorney-General, Simon Corbell, Mossop “was a barrister in private practice for 14 years, prior to taking up appointment as an ACT Magistrate. During his career as a barrister, his areas of practice were diverse and included constitutional law, commercial law, administrative law, tenancy law, corporations law, and human right and discrimination law. In his earlier years, Mr Mossop was a solicitor at the Environmental Defender’s Office (ACT) where he provided legal advice and community legal education on environmental law, and managed a small community legal centre. Prior to that he was Associate to then High Court Justice McHugh.”

This is hardly the sort of background that that would give Mossop any sort of ability to judge the truth or sensibility of what his accusers are saying. Indeed, Mossop might have his own biases and – given the secret nature of his court – and the opportunity to be dishonest.

Just imagine Houston telling Mossip that Australia and the US were winning in Afghanistan. Mossip would have believed every word!

According to 15 November 2023 SMH article, “on Wednesday morning, Justice Mossop said he would be directing the jury, which had been expected to be empanelled on Thursday, that McBride had no duty to act in the Australian public interest in circumstances where it conflicted with orders”. “Any duty contrary to law would not be able to be discharged,” Mossop said. “[It] could not be readily described as a duty at all.” Rather, Mossop said the scope of a Defence Force member’s duties were defined by legal rules applied to soldiers.

McBride’s barrister has argued that merely obeying orders “ignores Nuremberg”. Mossop is probably now looking up Wikipedia articles to find out about Nuremeberg. I can help him in this area, having read extensively about the psychology and thinking of defendants at the Nuremberg trials, when researching my book on dictators and the people who worked with them. Many high ranking German military officers – such as Field Marshal Manstein – refused to join a conspiracy to remove Hitler because of their duty of loyalty to the army. Mossop would probably applaud Manstein for this!

See: “Dictatorial CEOs and their Lieutenants: Inside the Executive Suites of Napoleon, Stalin, Ataturk, Mussolini, Hitler and Mao – www.jeffschubert.com

I would also suggest that Mossop try to find out about living in Putin’s Russia where most prosecutors and judges would totally agree with him. I can also help him here because I lived in Russia until October last year – 10 months after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. The change in the willingness of all sorts of people to accept that they could do nothing to change the situation was chilling, with some proclaiming that supporting the Russian military was far more important than the truth or even the overall interests of Russia. There was a “legal duty” to NOT talk about “war” and any Russian atrocities – particularly for soldiers — but also a “duty” to only talk about a “special military operations” (SVO) and the elimination of the “Nazi regime” in Ukraine.

See: https://russianeconomicreform.ru

Jeff Schubert

 

Why I support WikiLeaks

Why I support WikiLeaks · 22 December 2010

In my book, Dictatorial CEOs & their Lieutenants: Inside the Executive Suites of Napoleon, Stalin, Ataturk, Mussolini, Hitler and Mao, I wrote about the people who serve dictators. They are the same sort of people who are part of the worst side of the present Russian Government, and who are often found in democracies—where they mainly keep their views to themselves.

On 21 December I woke up in my Moscow apartment only to read on the Lowy Institute’s Interpreter commentary (https://www.lowyinstitute.org/) site that we have a similar individual working in the Australian Government who is a senior Canberra security insider.

In my view, the commentary of senior Canberra security insider has an underlying tone that suggests that he/she would make a good lieutenant to a authoritarian or dictatorial leader.

Bob Johnston, Former Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, wrote in the Foreword to my book:

Subordinates rarely rate more than footnotes in historical studies of such tyrants, but here motivations and actions of the lieutenants are extensively noted and compared. Once again there are commonalities that highlight the universal nature of human beings; and how desires and fears can lead people to serve a despot.

It is a pity that senior Canberra security insider does not have the courage to identify himself/herself but such is often the case with such servants to the power of others! I would welcome the opportunity to compare senior Canberra security insider with one of the subordinates/lieutenants in my book.

Here is the text of senior Canberra security insider on the Lowy Institute’s internet site:

Rory Medcalf’s Interpreter post on the real world fallout from WikiLeaks’ so-called ‘cablegate’ is spot on. Sure, there may be some positive consequences along the way, but the broader impact will be overwhelmingly negative. It will make the job of national security harder, and more expensive. Lives will be unnecessarily put at risk. One of the greatest contemporary challenges for agencies involved in national security (the number of which is growing) has been information sharing. The events of 11 September 2001 were avoidable if the right information had reached the right people at the right time. And as if we needed a reminder, it was only last year on Christmas Day that Northwest Airlines Flight 253 avoided by only the narrowest of margins being bombed out of the sky over the US. It was another incident that could have been prevented if information had been shared adequately, and acted upon. So how do government agencies and their people now respond to a world with WikiLeaks? They have no choice. Corporately, they must move to protect their information from wholesale disclosure on the internet. They’ll expend scarce resources strengthening information security and will need to monitor employees more carefully. They’ll need to ensure other agencies (including international partners) with access to their information can protect it, and in the meantime may well restrict access. Much needed efforts to strengthen information sharing and connect information systems will be reviewed, slowed or will stall completely. Any money available for information-sharing initiatives will be sucked into protecting existing systems. Lingering inter-agency mistrust will be given renewed life. And at a personal level, individuals will think twice before committing something to writing or sharing it with a colleague. This is why I find some of the ‘it doesn’t need to be this way’ comments in response to Rory’s article so misplaced. It is quaint to talk about a new era of diplomacy conducted in public. I’m not sure how that would work in practice. There’s a suggestion that confidentiality is not itself a problem and in fact is necessary in diplomacy but that governments haven’t got the calibration right between openness and confidentiality. But let’s be clear. This is not what WikiLeaks is about. WikiLeaks is not trying to reinvent statecraft. It is not trying to recalibrate government openness. It is not a whistle-blower. It is not practicing free speech. It is not just a publisher. It is not a media outlet. WikiLeaks has a political agenda that is anti-American and anti-government. And like most ‘anti-’ movements, it is not offering practical solutions, it is just against what other people are trying to do to solve problems. Why aren’t diplomats and other officials’ names removed from the US diplomatic cables it is posting to the internet? Because in WikiLeaks’ eyes they are the enemy. Any real world personal damage to them is collateral to the WikiLeaks political objective. So why do government agencies need to act in the way I describe? Because we don’t know what’s next. Yesterday it was tactical military reports, today it is diplomatic cables. Tomorrow it could be anything that WikiLeaks sees as promoting or defending its interests. It could be information from the Tax Office, the Federal Police, the Health Department, or any other institution of state or, for that matter, private enterprise. True colours are beginning to emerge. The Australian Government has displeased WikiLeaks and is now under attack, per Julian Assange’s thinly veiled threat in the Australian on 8 December. Who’s next? Amazon? Financial institutions that have withdrawn their services from WikiLeaks? It will be interesting to see. If WikiLeaks truly believed in transparency it would reveal all about itself, its decisions and internal deliberations, and each and every source of funding such an approach would certainly be consistent with the ‘scientific’ approach to journalism that it advocates, whereby the public can reach back to the source to judge for themselves what is true, and what is not. Even if WikiLeaks disappeared tomorrow, its damage is done. There is certain to be copy cats. What remains to be seen is the cause they summon to justify their actions. And the tragic irony in all this is that many of those who currently support or sympathise with WikiLeaks will be the same ones outraged when the next preventable security incident occurs. They’ll also argue for the right to privacy when there is some massive spillage of personal data onto the internet for that’s also a certain in a WikiLeaked world.

My response to the commentary of senior Canberra security insider is this:

I think that your true colours are pretty clear. I think that you would happily work for whoever has power. If I knew more about you I might be able to compare you with one of the subordinates (lieutenants) who worked for Napoleon, Stalin, Ataturk, Mussolini, Hitler or Mao. Are you a sometime lawyer, military officer, diplomat, politician, academic or spy? Do you have the courage to identify yourself?

I am not as conspiracy minded as Assange, but there certainly are conspiracies even in democracies!

I have some personal knowledge of one that was attempted a few years ago between very senior Treasury officials and the highest level of big business in the area of taxation. These people thought that they were acting in the public interest, and to achieve their aims they planned to put out to the public information that was not true. I actually nipped it in the bud with some well placed media leaks of my own.

Howard/Blair/Bush etc probably thought that they were acting in the public interest in the invasion of Iraq. On its very eve I appeared on Australia’s SBS television station to discuss the economic consequences of the war. When discussing weapons of mass destruction, one of my fellow guests (Dr. Chris Caton from BT) said: Who knows what he (Saddam Hussein) has. In response I said that it was pretty clear by now that he has none. It was a strong statement by me, but one that was not hard to make because I had been reading generally available information. The issue with Caton was that the pressure of work (as well as his particular interests) had restricted his reading and thinking. But the ultimate effect was the same: Caton was very susceptible to the connived propaganda of Howard/Blair/Bush.

Such ignorance of much of the population has been the source of empowerment to many a potential dictator. As Benito Mussolini put it, people do not want to rule, but to be ruled and to be left in peace. This is what attracted Albert Speer to Hitler and the Nazi party in the early 1930s: My inclination to be relieved of having to think, particularly about unpleasant facts In this I did not differ from millions of others.

Thus, the real value of WikiLeaks maybe that is makes it more difficult for the masses (and if it does not directly affect them, the non-thinking masses often constitute a majority of the population in most countries, including in Australia and Russia) to avoid the sometimes very obvious stupidity and lies of their leaders (who often feel themselves to be acting or the public good). Left unchallenged, these lies and this apathy toward stupidity can result in public support or, at least, acceptance of policies which are actually against the longer-term public interest. It is one thing for parts of the mass media in democratic societies to report supposed facts, but it is another thing to see them in an official documents. The direct effect on most of the non-thinking masses may soon wear-off, but in most countries such leaks will encourage a minority of the population which is willing to put some effort into finding out the truth and thinking about it and discussing it.

Amongst the important issues (for Australia at least) that seem to have been given greater expose by WikiLeaks are:
?the reality or not of Iran making an unprovoked nuclear attack on its neighbors (Australian intelligence officials think it not likely, but you would never believe this from listening to Gillard etc);
?Afghanistan (where the Government and the military would have us think that victory is within sight, even if not close);
?China, with both Rudd and Beazley being too ready to act as cheer-leaders for force no matter what the merits of issue.

Of course, senior Canberra security insider makes some good points about information etc, but whatever the WikiLeaks agenda, it is clearly to my mind about free speech. Yes, WikiLeaks may be an’anti-’ movement and not offer practical solutions to problems, but I personally do not have a lot of faith in the ability of the other people trying to to solve problems.

Tell us, who is this brilliant senior Canberra security insider problem solver?

I will conclude with a point about Russia and Australia. There is actually a huge amount of material available in the Russian printed media about the incompetence (leaving aside the issue of corruption) of much of the government. But, it is often suggested that because much of this does not get to appear on television (which remains the main news source for most Russians) it is allowed to continue for longer than if there were more public exposure. A WikiLeaks on Russia would bring considerable public benefit.

I am often amazed how much of what I read in the Russian printed media reminds me of aspects of government in Australia. This is another reason why I support WikiLeaks.

Wendi (Wendy) Deng

On Murdoch�s Wendi (Wendy) Deng & Zhang Yufeng · 25 March 2007

Most speculation about the future of News Corp misses a crucial point just as important as what happens to News Corp after the death of Rupert Murdoch may be what happens BEFORE! Wendi (Wendy) Deng is ideally placed to become Murdoch’s Zhang Yufeng.

Neil Chenoweth, in his article, Keeping it in the Family (AFR Perspective, 24 March), writes about life after Rupert and says that this has always been the question that News Corp investors have studiously avoided. Grant Samuel, a corporate advisory group, has recently written: It appears that most investors who invest in News Corp do so because they are backing Mr. Murdoch’s management and vision for the company and seem comfortable with his level of control.

What investors seem to be ignoring is the significant possibility that Wendi (Wendy) Deng will became a powerful gate-keeper separating Murdoch from most of his senior executives, in a similar way to Zhang Yufeng who became Mao Zedong’s gate-keeper. Murdoch is now 76 years old, and the older he becomes, the greater the probability of this occurring.

Apart from being his wife, Wendi (Wendy) Deng has the great advantage over others (including over other family members) of proximity and can whisper in his ear every morning; and according to Andrew Neil, who served as a Murdoch lieutenant for over a decade, Murdoch is highly susceptible to poison being poured in his ear about someone.

Time exacts a toll which cannot be ignored. Andrew Neil wrote that by 1994 Murdoch had become increasingly unpredictable, even whimsical, moving people about for no very good reason (spinning wheels was how one executive put it), except to satisfy his latest wheeze. He was even doing it to himself. Now over sixty, with intimations of mortality but still so much to do, he had become even more of a man in a hurry. He was moving executives around like pieces on a chessboard to suit whatever purpose obsessed him at that particular moment; regardless of the disruption in their lives they were expected to fit in, even if fundamental decisions risked being reversed only weeks after they were taken.

That was 13 years ago!

Murdoch has always been a loner, a Sun King who has adopted the classical dictatorial management style of someone like Mao who eschewed conventional management structures and hated delegating power. A person should depend on himself to do his work reading and commenting on documents, said Mao. Don’t depend on secretaries. Don’t give secretaries a lot of power. Yet, toward the end of his life, Mao’s did just this.

Li Zhisui, Mao’s long-time doctor, wrote that in 1973 Mao criticised Zhou Enlai for not discussing major issues with him, reporting only minor matters instead. Zhou’s position was awkward. He was still loyal to Mao. But Zhang Yufeng had become Mao’s gatekeeper and made it difficult for the two to meet because she was nearly always with him.

And it only got worse. One day in June 1976, when Hua Guofeng had come to see Mao, Zhang Yufeng had been napping and the attendants on duty were afraid to rouse her. Two hours later, when Zhang had still not gotten up, Hua, second in command only to Mao, finally left without seeing his superior.

Life after Rupert may be less interesting and important for News Corp investors than the remainder of life WITH Rupert.