Russian Lawyer at Trump Tower Meeting Charged in Unrelated Case

Russian Lawyer at Trump Tower Meeting Charged in Unrelated Case

Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskayahas been charged with obstruction of justice in a money laundering investigation separate from Robert Mueller's probe.

Ms Veselnitskaya represented Prevezon Holdings Ltd, a Russian-controlled company, which in 2017 agreed to pay almost $6 million to settle a U.S. government lawsuit accusing it of laundering proceeds of a $230 million tax fraud.

During the 2016 campaign for president, Veselnitskaya arranged a meeting with representatives of the Trump campaign by claiming to have "dirt" on then-candidate Hillary Clinton.

Trump Jr. and Kushner have acknowledged attending the meeting but have said it amounted to nothing.

"It makes that meeting seem all the more nefarious", said Barbara McQuade, a former U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of MI.

The charge was, at least on the surface, unrelated to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation in the 2016 election. He also has scrutinized Trump's role in drafting a misleading public statement about the meeting's content.

Dershowitz, a Harvard Law professor emeritus, explained that it's rare for a U.S. Attorney's Office to bring an indictment based on a misleading affidavit submitted in a civil case. Experts say she was chosen to represent Prevezon because of her connections to people involved in the case.

It was not immediately clear whether Veselnitskaya has retained a defense attorney.

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In the meeting, Veselnitskaya sought to discuss USA sanctions against Russia, a policy staunchly opposed by Putin's government, and the Kremlin's response prohibiting Americans from adopting Russian children.

The indictment was filed under seal in December and publicly announced today by Manhattan US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.

It alleges the 43-year-old "secretly" worked with a Russian prosecutor to draft the response.

Federal prosecutors charge that Veselnitskaya tried to obstruct a Justice Department civil fraud investigation into money laundering involving a Russian business man's investment firm. The case was settled in 2017, with Prevezon paying a $5.9 million fine without admitting any wrongdoing. A federal judge ordered the firm last February to pay US$6 million to the U.S. government.

The companies that claimed they had been defrauded by Prevezon were owned by Hermitage Capital Management, whose CEO William Browder aided the government's case. Browder has championed sanctions against Russia, accusing its officials of collaborating in the imprisonment that led to the death of his Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

After Magnitsky discovered the alleged fraud, he was arrested and held for nearly a year in pretrial detention in Moscow, where he eventually died at age 37, the US indictment filed at the time alleges. In the wake of his death, the USA passed a law in his name that brought sanctions against Russian oligarchs suspected of money laundering.

The case was not directly related to the Trump Tower meeting.

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