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Russian Lawyer Who Met With Trump's Son Charged By U.S. In Money Laundering Case


Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya (file photo)
Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya (file photo)

U.S. prosecutors have charged a Russian lawyer who met with President Donald Trump’s son and top campaign officials during the 2016 presidential election with obstruction of justice in a separate, but parallel, case that focused on Russian money laundering.

The indictment, unsealed on January 8 by a U.S. judge in Manhattan, targets Natalya Veselnitskaya, who has been at the center of scrutiny for her June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Trump's then-campaign chairman Paul Manafort, and others.

The indictment, which was dated December 20, concerns a $230 million tax fraud case that has shadowed U.S.-Russian relations for more than decade.

The case concerned a Russian-controlled company known as Prevezon Holdings, which U.S. authorities accused of using proceeds of the tax fraud to buy real estate in Manhattan.

In May 2017, on the eve of the trial, U.S. officials and Prevezon's lawyers agreed to settle the case, with Prevezon paying nearly $6 million but admitting no wrongdoing.

According to the indictment, Veselnitskaya, who was co-counsel to Prevezon, allegedly lied to U.S. authorities about her cooperation with the Russian Prosecutor-General’s office in drafting a response to a U.S. request for help in the case.

Veselnitskaya, according to the filing, worked closely with the Russian prosecutors as they rebuffed the U.S. request, and sought to pin blame for the original tax fraud on a British-American investor named Bill Browder.

A Russian citizen, Veselnitskaya is believed to be in Russia, and is unlikely to be turned over to U.S. authorities for prosecution.

She could not be immediately located for comment.

In June 2016, at the time she was representing Prevezon, Veselnitskaya secured a meeting with Trump Jr. at the Trump Tower in Manhattan.

That meeting has been under scrutiny by U.S. congressional investigators, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller, after it emerged that Trump Jr. was promised damaging information on Trump’s rival, Democrat Hillary Clinton. Also attending that meeting was Trump’s son-in-law, Jared Kushner.

Trump Jr. has acknowledged that he agreed to the meeting after being promised information on Clinton.

Manafort, meanwhile, has been convicted by a federal jury in Virginia, and pleaded guilty to foreign agent charges in a separate case -- charges that arose from his work prior to joining Trump's campaign.

However, U.S. authorities have been investigating whether Manafort’s prior work -- mainly for pro-Russian Ukrainian politicians and business interests -- may have helped influence Trump’s policy positions on Russia.

In a filing on January 8, Manafort's defense lawyers revealed that he shared Trump campaign polling data with a Russian-Ukrainian man whom U.S. intelligence suspect of being tied to Russian spy agencies.

Those accusations came to light in a document that was supposed to be partly blacked out but instead accidentally revealed the information.

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    Mike Eckel

    Mike Eckel is a senior correspondent reporting on political and economic developments in Russia, Ukraine, and around the former Soviet Union, as well as news involving cybercrime and espionage. He's reported on the ground on Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the wars in Chechnya and Georgia, and the 2004 Beslan hostage crisis, as well as the annexation of Crimea in 2014.

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