A top Russian official accused of directing Natalya Veselnitskaya, the lawyer who met with senior officials of U.S. President Donald Trump's election campaign in Trump Tower in 2016, has died in a helicopter crash.
Russian media reported on October 4 that Russian Deputy Attorney General Saak Karapetyan died when his helicopter crashed into a forest during a flight in the Kostroma region, northeast of Moscow, on October 3.
Russian news agency Interfax reported that the wreckage of a helicopter carrying Karapetyan was found near the village of Vonyshevo. The pilot and a third man were also killed in the crash.
Karapetyan’s links to Veselnitskaya emerged this year, when a case in Switzerland exposed the pair’s operation to recruit a high-level law enforcement official who was supposed to be investigating the Swiss bank accounts of Russian oligarchs and mobsters.
The top investigator was fired for “unauthorized clandestine behavior” and allegations of bribery and breaching secrecy laws. Swiss authorities discovered that the officer -- who was identified only as Victor K. -- had met Karapetyan in Geneva and Zurich.
Before Christmas 2016, Karapetyan telephoned the official and invited him to Moscow, where he was put up in a luxury hotel and asked to attend a meeting with Veselnitskaya.
The Daily Beast reported that the meeting with Veselnitskaya likely concerned fallout from the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was working to expose a massive fraud that implicated the Kremlin when he was arrested, beaten, and left to die in a Russian prison.
In the aftermath of Magnitsky's death, his client, former Russian investment fund manager Bill Browder, campaigned to enact a series of anticorruption laws around the world in his name. The U.S. Magnitsky Act was passed in 2012.
Veselnitskaya has been one of the top Russian advocates lobbying to overturn the Magnitsky laws.
When she arranged to meet with former Trump campaign Chairman Paul Manafort, Donald Trump Jr., and Trump's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, at Trump Tower in June 2016, leaked e-mails say she was offering dirt on Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton allegedly given to her by Karapetyan’s Prosecutor-General's Office.
At the meeting, Veselnitskaya has acknowledged that she attempted to lobby the senior Trump officials on the U.S. Magnitsky law, which Putin retaliated against by barring Americans from adopting Russian children.
Karapetyan and Veselnitskaya also worked together on another job linked to Magnitsky, according to leaked e-mails. U.S. authorities brought a civil case against a company called Prevezon for its alleged links to laundering proceeds of the fraud that Magnitsky uncovered.
Karapetyan also played a role in the Kremlin's handling of British allegations that Russia was behind attacks and killings targeting prominent Russians in Britain in recent years.
He lashed out at Britain earlier this year for claiming Russia was behind a nerve-agent attack on former Russian spy Sergei Skripal and his daughter Yulia, calling the allegation "baseless" and "provocative," according to Interfax.