Wanna Trade Some Diamonds?

Tasha Poduska
10 min readFeb 12, 2022


Needless to say my life in Russia flourished from 1992–1998, I was the only person doing business in the Russian Far East, so all trade roads went through Tasha. Yep, this simple volleyball playing, psychology major was ruling the Russian Far East trade industry, not with a MBA in Business in International Law or Trade, I was just in the right place at the right time.

There will be more blogs on how I built my empire; how I started everything from scratch with no language or trade skills, how I dealt with the Mafia, sea captains, logistics and a whole lot more, but as I tell my friends, stories can be boring if they go in chronological order, so I’m going to jump around a little to keep things interesting.

Let Go in Here and Have a Chat Shall We

So why am I going into a vault to trade diamonds you may ask? Well, at this point, when I’m seeing this large vault door inside a bank, I honestly don’t know why I’m going into that door. I don’t know what I’m doing, all I know is that I’m going in with two other men, and one of them has a briefcase attached to his arm with a handcuff.

How did get here? One of my client’s sent me here, the same way they had been sending me around the world over the last 3 years. Who are these clients? They are often referred to as the “Big Boys” the men that seem to have all the money and make all the rules. They’ve been around a long time and they live life in a completely different way than you or I. How do you meet these type of clients? By being a cocky little shit that doesn’t know any better, that’s how.

I guess we’ll have to go back a little bit to lay this story out correctly and set the tone before I take you into that vault door. As I told you, all trade roads in the Russian Far East went through me. All sorts of vendors with their products where flooding to the newly opened Russia trade zone in early 90s. This was a new market and the Wild Wild West. Everyone wanted to be the first to get in. They all came and went without any luck, never signing a contract and never getting their product in. The more they came, the more they saw my stores opening, my warehouses growing and my logistic services moving everything. Finally these well educated senior traders started to ask me how I was finding so much success when they couldn’t even sign a contract for one container. Not knowing that you’re suppose to keep trade secrets to yourself, and being that cocky little shit that I was, I blurted out,

“Because I live here and they trust me”

Hearing this, these savvy traders now understood that they merely needed to trade through me, and now they all wanted to do business with me. Because the Russians had taught me how to do business, the one thing I knew was to choose a side, either represent the seller or the buyer, but never, I mean never represent both. Since the Russians were always the buyers, I represented them. The Russians and I used this to our advantage since most people selling to us wanted to offer me a percentage of the sale, hoping I would want to purchase their product. I would negotiate down the price to where it worked for us, negotiate my commission and then turn around and tell the Russians that I got us a good price and we can all split my commission (as to where that commission was kept and how it was split or used, that part of the story I’ll take to my grave).

In regards to my cocky answer above, yes I did live there and they did trust me, but in 1993 the Russian banking system wasn’t fully established. Most everyone in the world of trade uses what is called a “Letter of Credit”, this is the best way of doing business internationally so that no one has an advantage or gets taken advantage of in the process. Basically you sign a contract of terms, you then ask the paying bank (the buyer) to release of “Letter of Credit” to the seller’s bank, if everything goes well, as the contract stipulates, then the money is releases to the seller and the buyer retains the goods. You can only get a “Letter of Credit” from an accredited bank, but at this time in Russia’s new history, there are no Russian accredited banks. Russians couldn’t get a “Letter of Credit”, they would need to prepay for everything, then wait anywhere from 60–90 days to get their goods. This would explain why these senior traders coming to town couldn’t get a contract, the Russians didn’t trust them and they weren’t going to send hundreds of thousands of dollars to a strangers account, but they would send their money to Tasha’s account.

Side thought here — not only did these large sums of money being transferred to my newly formed business account in Utah cause the FBI to come banging at my parents door a few times, I later realized in life, that I was seeing this situation as the Russians ‘trusting’ me, when in actuality, the Russians would have ‘killed’ me if anything happen to their money or their goods. Still a little naive at this point of my international trading career and building my empire.

So long story short, everyone traded through me and life flourished. I can’t even tell you how easy this all was, there was a saying in Russia back then that you were walking knee high in money, you just had to figure out how to bend over and pick it up, and I had figured out how to pick it up. Then one night the phone rang…

“Yes, Hello, sorry to bother you, but is this Tasha Poduska?”
“Yes, how can I help you?”
“Oh good, I got your number from a friend of mine that said you can get things done in Russia and we have an oil tanker stuck in the port of St. Petersburg (Primorsk)”

Now I’m going to tell you, at this point of my career I’m importing canned good, chicken legs, barely worked my way up to a ship load of sugar, dabbled a little in the timber and urea industry, but I have never touched oil. Oil is the elite of the elite, other than currency itself, so what the hell is this guy calling me for? Not to mention I’m 10 times zones away from this port. Because it’s the middle of the night, I take his info and the info and I go back to sleep. In the morning I happen to be meeting with my insurance guy (also known as the head of the Russian Far Eastern mafia) and I tell him this funny story about the call I got.

He looks at me with all serious intent and says, “What port, what tanker?” I given him the details, he steps away and starts to make some calls.

It’s hard to tell stories about events in Russia without fully understanding their culture. One thing they have in Russia is called a Sarafan Radio:

сарафанное радио Literally — , “sarafan radio”, originally in reference to gossiping village women

This is best displayed in a New Year’s movie called “Yolki” but the idea is that someone knows someone, that knows the person you need to know and it spans all over Russia. So within 2 hours my contact received information. The tanker was stuck in the port because the bribe wasn’t paid. This is the early 90s in Russia, and that was the way business was done. So I asked what was the bride?

“Four Toyota Land Cruisers”

That’s what they wanted, 4 of these. Why these Land Cruisers? At this time, this was the best vehicle for the Russian roads and to show a certain status. I asked my guy if we could get these 4 Land Cruisers. He said, “Sure, no problem”. Then what he asked me next, I’ll never forget…

“Do you want them to let the tanker go?”

Do I? Do I, Tasha Poduska, want to let a million some odd dollar tanker go? Hell yes I do!!! This was the moment a beast was born and my new nickname was now “Master of the Universe”, I felt unstoppable.

We got all the details together, each cruiser was around $20k at the time, plus transport, so roughly around $100k to get this done, AND NOW, I am more of a seasoned trader so the return phone call went like this..

“Hi, I found your tanker”
“OMG, great, how can we get it moving?”
“Well, it looks like you didn’t fill out any of your paperwork correctly and now you have some huge fines, it’s going to take around $250K to get your tanker out of there”
“Done. Tell me where to send the money”

Within minutes of that call, the tanker was gone and I had a new job — “Filling out the proper “PAPERWORK” for tankers and other items leaving Russia”

I’m sure you can now jump to how I met some of the clients I had on the day I appeared at the bank for this mysterious meeting in the vault. My clients were all private men, thus their names and identities will be kept secret. They took care of me and I took care of them. They always sent me first class, best hotels, best clothes, perfumes, meals, etc. anything I wanted, because I provided a much needed service for them, I was their eyes and ears on the world market. I went where they couldn’t go and took care of their interests. They trusted me.

The unique thing about these clients was the nature of their business and how their years of knowledge in this industry pays off, and why they’re known as the “Big Boys”. It’s hard to get into their club, but there are a lot of reasons why. When you do business with them, they’ve already thought of everything, so never try to out think them or cheat them, it is just death, not the killing kind, just death to career FOREVER. I never had this problem, as they could tell that I never wanted to cheat them, I enjoyed what I was doing and I did it well. The terms are simple, go into any situation and handle it, BUT, you will NEVER know if you are working for the buyer or the seller, this is something only the client knows. Thus, you can’t be bribed or swayed because you don’t know who you are working for, it’s called a “Blind Transaction”.

To give you an example of a “Blind Transaction”, let’s got back to the bank and I’ll explain it to you as it unfolded for me.

“Tasha, I need you to handle a transaction tomorrow at a Bank in Switzerland, I’m sending flight and hotel info now, the meeting is at 4 pm, and ask for Mr. Andrews”

That’s it, that’s all I’d get. So off I go, arrive at the bank and ask for Mr Andrews. He tells me that the rest of my party has arrived and he’ll be happy to take me to the vault now. So I walk with him, we grab two other men, and one of them has a briefcase on his arm attached by a handcuff. We walk to the vault, there’s a table there with chairs, I remaining standing as I don’t want to sit on one side as I’m an observer to whatever is going to happen next. Mr. Andrew leaves, closing the vault door slightly, not enough to click close it, it’s not like you can knock to get out or anything, but enough to give us privacy.

The man with the briefcase puts it on the table, opens it, takes out a small case, then a black cloth which he unfolds to an array of diamonds. I think to myself, “Ok, I guess I’m at my first diamond trade”. The man with the case continues to layout the diamonds for inspection and the second man is now pulling out a loupe, which is used to inspect diamonds. The inspection happens, then the man with the loupe looks at me and says..

“I see 16 stones”

I agree with him and the man with the case also says, “I see 16 stones”. The diamonds are wrapped back up, placed in the case, the case in the briefcase and the handcuffs are transferred from one man to the other. They both thank me for my time and we’re done. We leave the vault, we leave the bank and that’s that. I call me client, and let him know that it all went well, he asks me, “How many stones?”, I answer, “16”. I know better than to ask any more questions, so I merely wait for him to add anything else. He tells me about a great restaurant that he’s made reservations for me, and his personal friend, usually the owner or the chef, will be preparing something for me. I thank him, but before we hang up, he says, “Do you want to know why you were there?”, of course I want to know why, I’m 25 and I just walked into a vault and watched diamonds change hands! I simply say, “Yes”.

“The two men that brought the diamonds are both in the diamond industry, and of course they need to inspect the quality of the diamond, that is their job. You are there to make sure that a stone or two doesn’t go missing. When they turned to you to confirm the number of stones, someone in the room can change the number, in your case, you could have said 13 and I would have never known, each of you could have walked out with a stone. Thank you for time, enjoy your evening.”



Tasha Poduska

I bring to the table a unique and eclectic professional journey that spans continents and industries. Want more, go to tashapoduska.com