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Police cordon off the street outside Melbourne Gold Company following the robbery on Monday. Image credit: Nine
Police cordon off the street outside Melbourne Gold Company following the robbery on Monday. Image credit: Nine

‘Record-breaking’ armed robbery at gold dealer; colourful history revealed

UPDATED: A business owned by Michael Kukulka, who was named in the high-profile gold bullion tax scheme, has been targeted in what is believed to be one of the largest armed robberies in Victorian history.

Melbourne man Karl Kachami, 48, appeared in court last week charged with a range of offences following the daylight robbery at Melbourne Gold Company (MBC) on Monday 27 April.

Arrested and charged, Karl Kachami in 2007. Image: Angela Wylie, <i>The Age</i>
Arrested and charged, Karl Kachami in 2007. Image: Angela Wylie, The Age

Police have alleged Kachami entered the MBC office, located on the seventh floor of a building on Melbourne’s Collins Street, at 9.40am after being buzzed in.

Wearing a surgical mask and armed with a Glock pistol, he then allegedly threatened and assaulted an employee before removing a haul of gold bullion, jewellery and cash from a safe, reportedly valued at $3.9 million, and transported it via trolley to a waiting vehicle.

According to a Victoria Police report dated 30 April 2020, officers raided three properties connected with Kachami in the following days, finding a significant proportion of the stolen goods and cash, as well as a loaded handgun and stolen numberplates, at a rural address in the town of Dollar in the Gippsland region.

Sazz Nasimi, a legal representative for MBC, told The Age on 4 May that while security at the business was usually tight, "protocols were not followed" during the robbery. He added that the safe was "unusually full" as demand for gold had surged due to the COVID-19 crisis.

Kachami was charged with armed robbery, theft, false imprisonment, armed with criminal intent, common law assault, and two counts of non-prohibited person in possession of a handgun.

He did not apply for bail and the case was adjourned to 24 July. Kachami has no prior criminal convictions and was previously employed in the accommodation sector.

Nasimi said that staff of the business had been left "deeply traumatised" by the robbery and thanked Victoria Police for its response.

A colourful history

According to government authorities, Michael Kukulka was previously director of MAK Precious Metals. In December 2019, an Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) decision revealed that MAK provided $459 million in scrap gold to refining company EBS, which was one of a number of companies involved in the Australian Taxation Office (ATO)'s investigation into gold bullion tax avoidance, and has since been liquidated. 

Image: Justin McManus, <i>The Age</i>
Image: Justin McManus, The Age

According to the AAT decision – which has been appealed by the liquidator of EBS – MAK Precious Metals had sourced gold from convicted fraudster Rocco Calabrese. However, The Age reports that Kukulka was “not involved in any of Calabrese’s wrongdoing”.

Notably, Sazz Nasimi previously represented Colombian-born gold and diamond dealer Alejandro Mendieta Blanco. Blanco faced more than 450 charges in relation to selling stolen jewellery obtained in a series of armed robberies and was also investigated as part of the gold bullion tax avoidance scheme.

The Age reports that MAK Precious Metals also loaned $334,000 to diamond dealer Ron Bensimon, also known as Ronnie Ben-Simon, which went unpaid when Bensimon's company, Bensimon Retail Group, collapsed in 2016. While Kukulka launched legal proceedings to recoup the debt, the proceedings were abandoned when Bensimon was declared bankrupt.

Bensimon has since relocated to Sydney and subsequently made headlines last year following a legal dispute with AFL player Joel Selwood over a missing engagement ring.

In addition to Melbourne Gold Company, Kukulka also operates strip club Showgirls Bar 20. The Age reports that a recent application to relocate the club was opposed by Victoria Police due to more than $6 million in irregular transactions in Kukulka's bank account.

However, there was no accusation of wrongdoing and the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation later approved Kukulka's application.


More reading:
Tribunal finds in favour of tax office in gold bullion GST case 
Football star wins $70k from Bensimon Diamonds
Diamond dealer serves bankruptcy notice on Bensimon 
Gold dealer connected to jewellery robberies fronts court 
We can’t afford to get complacent about security

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