A former KGB bioterrorism expert who tested more than twice
the legal drink-drive limit has been let off a conviction.
Alexander Kouzminov, 57, had his conviction overturned after
his lawyer, Stuart Blake, argued he would lose the right to
travel overseas as a consultant for several foreign
Anti drink-drive campaigners say the decision to overturn his
conviction sends the wrong message to anyone tempted to get
behind the wheel while intoxicated.
Kouzminov was noticed driving erratically on Auckland's
Parnell Rd in May 2012 and recorded a breath alcohol reading
of 956mcg of alcohol per litre of breath - more than twice
the 400 limit.
Kouzminov claimed he thought he was being followed and tried
to use counter-surveillance techniques learned while working
for the Russian intelligence services.
He was convicted of drink driving at a hearing in November
2012 by community magistrate Joanna Sihamu.
But Judge David Burns at the Auckland District Court
overturned the conviction last month after he heard Kouzminov
would lose his job as chief executive of a water research
facility at Waiwera.
Details of Kouzminov's links to foreign crimefighting and
intelligence agencies also emerged during the appeal.
The court heard Kouzminov is a member of a reportedly secret
nuclear biological and chemical warfare society based in
Canada and has a high-level security clearance.
Before arriving in New Zealand with his wife and two children
in 1994, Kouzminov reportedly worked for a top secret cell
within the KGB known as "Directorate S".
It developed biological weapons for terrorist and sabotage
acts against the West during the 1980s and early 1990s.
Kouzminov's presence in New Zealand was revealed in 2005,
when his book Biological Espionage was published,
which blew the whistle on the shadowy biological cell.
Blake, a specialist in drink-drive cases, told the court it
would be a "tragic loss to the global community"for his
client to be prevented from continuing his work.
Kouzminov is also chief executive of the Robert Graham
Institute, part of the Waiwera Group owned by fellow Russian
Colleagues swore affidavits, stating Kouzminov would lose his
job as he would be unable to travel at short notice to
countries with strict entry laws such as Canada.
Judge Burns said Kouzminov's breath alcohol reading was "very
high"but said the "spectacular fall from grace"of losing his
work would be too high a price to pay.
He cited Kouzminov's distinguished academic and business
career since arriving in New Zealand and that he had no
previous criminal history.
Students Against Drink Driving chief executive Anna Braidwood
said someone could easily have been killed or injured by
"I think he's got off very lightly.
"We need to send a really clear message. Every time someone
gets behind the wheel intoxicated, they are putting their own
life and others' lives, at risk."
Kouzminov chose to pay $850 to the Cancer Society after
having his original fine rescinded.
Ministry of Justice figures show around 50 drivers a year are
let off drink-drive convictions.
- by Bevan Hurley of the Herald on Sunday