THE first most Australians would have heard of Evgenia Bednova was when her name was mentioned in the Federal Court as someone who was paid a staggering $1 million by Queensland Nickel.
The huge money was paid to Ms Bednova to investigate mining opportunities by the company in Kyrgyzstan.
The 36-year-old came to prominence in Australia courtesy of Clive Palmer, who is being questioned about her in the Federal Court. The involvement of the former federal MP and businessman in the collapse of Queensland Nickel is being probed by liquidators.
The failure of the company cost 850 people their jobs in Townsville.
Mr Palmer told the court he couldn’t recall exactly what each of his thousands of employees did when he was asked specific questions about Ms Bednova. However, he did say she had experience in trade-related matters and was the company representative in Kyrgyzstan.
His involvement with her was “only business”, the court heard. Outside the hearing, he told media the $1 million “wasn’t for her (personally), it was to run the office over there, and to represent and look for mineral opportunities”.
The money paid to her was a massive increase to the annual average wage in Bishkek. And it appears she travelled to Singapore on a private jet chartered by another of Mr Palmer’s companies — at a cost of $250,000 — to meet with him.
Mr Palmer directed his lawyer to object when barrister Walter Sofronoff QC, for liquidators FTI Consulting, began to quiz him about his relationship with a woman named Evgenia Bednova, how often he’d met her, and where.
Mr Sofronoff wanted to know why Mr Palmer’s company Mineralogy had paid a quarter of a million dollars to fly her privately from her homeland to Singapore in 2011, where Mr Palmer was attending a Forbes business conference.
“Do you recall chartering a jet to fly to Kyrgyzstan and pick here up and fly her to Singapore?” Mr Sofronoff asked.
“I don’t know, it would have been done by our staff,” Mr Palmer told him.
“Do you recall the jet arriving in Singapore and you meeting her at the airport?’ the barrister asked.
“I don’t recall, no,” Mr Palmer said, reported AAP.
“Do you recall she was the only passenger on that jet?” Mr Sofronoff continued, reminding Mr Palmer that this was a woman he’d “paid $1 million to”.
So who is she?
The Australian visited Ms Bednova in the Kyrgyzstan city of Bishtek and found her living a luxurious life in a double block worth $260,000 and a regular visitor of a sports centre frequented by Bishkek’s rich residents.
But since her name was mentioned in court, it seems Ms Bednova has done her best to stay anonymous.
She told her Facebook friends she was going to remove all her photographs online and then began deleting social media accounts.
She told The Australian she did not want to discuss her Queensland Nickel work.
“I do not have to talk to you,” she said, and then threatened to call the police.
Neighbours told the newspaper the family kept to themselves — to such an extent it was as if they were “invisible”.