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Local News - Victoria

Strippers, scrap gold and a $3.9 million heist


At about 9.40am, he is accused of pointing a Glock pistol at the head of an employee of the Melbourne Gold Company based on the seventh floor, before leaving with almost $4 million worth of gold bullion, jewellery and cash.

Mr Kachami was charged on April 30 with armed robbery, theft, false imprisonment and assault, after police found the loot buried at a rural property near the Gippsland town of Dollar.

Lawyer Sazz Nasimi acts for Melbourne Gold Company and its owner Michael Kukulka, who was not present at the time of the robbery.

Mr Nasimi said security was usually extremely tight.

“This was a human error and protocols were not followed on the day,” he said.

Mr Nasimi said the safe was unusually full because the company had received a significant consignment of gold a few days earlier amid a surge in demand for the precious metal because of coronavirus.

Mr Nasimi thanked police for the swift arrest and said it was business as usual at Mr Kukulka’s company.

However, Mr Kukulka’s relationship with Victoria Police has not always been cordial.

In January this year, Licensing Inspector Scott Johnson opposed an application by Mr Kukulka to reopen strip club Showgirls Bar 20 at a new site on King Street.

Mr Kukulka invested $1.2 million in the relaunch of the notorious gentlemen’s club, but Victoria Police raised concerns about his involvement in the gold industry.

In an 18-page submission, police identify more than $6 million in irregular transactions in a bank account linked to his business, including dozens of payments from unidentified pseudonyms such as ‘Gdetoagch’ and ‘Aghtogde.’ Mr Kukulka has never been charged with any offence in connection with any of those transactions, and he is not accused of any wrongdoing.

Despite the police objections, Mr Kukulka’s application was approved last month by the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, and the strip club is expected to open when social distancing guidelines are relaxed.

The scale of Mr Kukulka’s previous gold business MAK Precious Metals was revealed in a recent Administrative Appeals Tribunal case, where he was found to have provided almost $460 million in scrap gold to a Sydney-based company called ABC Refinery Pty Limited.

Mr Kukulka sourced gold from a range of sources, including $1.5 million in just six days from Melbourne fraudster-turned-bullion dealer Rocco Calabrese, according to court documents.

Calabrese, aka Rocco De Gonza, has been bankrupt twice, jailed for three dozen deception offences in 2002, and convicted again in 2014 for stealing 5500 kilograms of prawns worth $82,000. Mr Kukulka was not involved in any of Calabrese’s wrongdoing.

According to court documents, gold sourced from Mr Calabrese was referred to as ‘Rocco jobs’.

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Mr Kukulka’s former business also appears to have offered short-term loans, usually secured by diamonds or gold bullion.

Mr Kukulka’s former business lent diamond dealer Ron Bensimon $334,000, which was never repaid when Bensimon’s empire collapsed in 2016, after amassing personal and business debts of more than $10 million.

Mr Nasimi said Mr Kukulka launched legal action to recoup the debt, but abandoned the claim when Bensimon was declared bankrupt.

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