Russian lawyer in Trump Tower meeting charged in separate case

Natalia Veselnitskaya accused of fabricating evidence in prominent money laundering case

Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya speaking during an interview in Moscow on November 8th, 2016. Photograph: Yury Martyanov/AFP/Getty Images

Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya speaking during an interview in Moscow on November 8th, 2016. Photograph: Yury Martyanov/AFP/Getty Images

 

A Russian lawyer known for her involvement in a controversial 2016 meeting with Donald Trump’s campaign was charged on Tuesday with obstruction of justice in a separate matter.

Natalia Veselnitskaya, who attended the June 2016 meeting at Trump Tower, was accused by federal prosecutors in New York of fabricating evidence in a prominent money laundering case.

Ms Veselnitskaya (43), who lives in Russia, was an attorney for Prevezon Holdings, which agreed in 2017 to pay $5.9 million to settle civil money laundering and forfeiture claims brought by the US attorney’s office for the southern district of New York.

On Tuesday, the US attorney’s office accused her of filing “an intentionally misleading declaration” in the case.

The lawyer has also come under scrutiny from Robert Mueller, the special counsel investigating possible ties between Russia and members of the 2016 Trump campaign, after she met with Donald Trump Jr, Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort at the Trump Tower in New York in June 2016.

The meeting was sold to Mr Trump Jr by a music publicist with ties to a Russian oligarch as an opportunity to receive dirt on Hillary Clinton from the Russian government. Mr Trump’s son has said no such information was ultimately exchanged.

The Prevezon Holdings case was connected to a massive Russian tax fraud uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who died while in pretrial detention in Moscow. His death led to the passage of the Magnitsky Act in 2012, which allowed the US to sanction Russian officials accused of being responsible.

Vladimir Putin, Russia’s president, responded to the act by banning the adoption of Russian children by Americans. Mr Trump Jr has said Ms Veselnitskaya raised the adoption issue and the Magnitsky Act at the June 2016 Trump Tower meeting.

The Manhattan US attorney’s office, which filed the Prevezon case in 2013, had sought to prove that Prevezon had laundered portions of the $230million fraud Magnitsky had uncovered, including into high-end commercial and residential property in New York.

Tax fraud

The US attorney’s office on Tuesday alleged that Ms Veselnitskaya had submitted in that case the findings of an investigation by the Russian government “under the false pretence that these findings had been independently drafted”.

The Russian government investigation had attempted to exonerate any Russian officials from involvement in the tax fraud and sought to deflect the blame on to others, including Magnitsky, US prosecutors said.

Ms Veselnitskaya’s November 2015 declaration filed in the case stated she had been forced to challenge the Russian prosecutor-general’s office in court to receive a copy of the investigation’s findings.

US prosecutors claimed she was involved in drafting the findings “in secret co-operation with a senior Russian prosecutor” and concealed her involvement from the court.

The Russian prosecutor had also drafted the complaint Ms Veselnitskaya filed against his own office to obtain the findings, according to the indictment unsealed on Tuesday.

“Fabricating evidence – submitting false and deceptive declarations to a federal judge – in an attempt to affect the outcome of pending litigation not only undermines the integrity of the judicial process, but it threatens the ability of our courts and our government to ensure that justice is done,” Geoffrey Berman, the US attorney in Manhattan, said in a statement announcing the indictment.

Ms Veselnitskaya did not immediately respond to a request for comment. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2019