Russian lawyer connected to Trump Tower meeting charged with obstruction of justice
The charges are for a civil fraud investigation into money laundering involving an influential Russian businessman
The United States Justice Department on Tuesday charged a Russian lawyer who is being investigated over a 2016 meeting at Trump Tower with senior aides to the then-candidate with obstruction of justice.
Natalia Veselnitskaya is being investigated by Special Counsel Robert Mueller for possible Russian collusion by the Trump election campaign. The charges were related to a separate case.
Federal prosecutors in New York indicted Ms Veselnitskaya for “seeking to thwart a Justice Department civil fraud investigation into money laundering that involved an influential Russian businessman and his investment firm”, the New York Times reported. While the indictment is not tied to the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, where Ms Veselnitskaya met Donald Trump Jr and other campaign officials and offered “dirt” on Mr Trump’s Democratic rival Hillary Clinton, it shows her close ties to the Kremlin.
The New York indictment said Ms Veselnitskaya cooperated secretly with a senior Russian prosecutor while representing defendants accused of an “elaborate” $230 million tax refund fraud scheme.” She is accused of submitting an intentionally misleading statement to the court. “In doing so, Veselnitskaya obstructed the civil proceeding,” the indictment said.
Ms Veselnitskaya, 43, is not in US custody and is currently in Russia but will now be listed as a “wanted” person by the FBI.
NBC reported that the federal government filed the case in 2013 “in an effort to recover several million dollars worth of property, primarily comprised of New York real estate, which was allegedly obtained to launder a portion of the money swindled in the tax refund scheme.”
That scheme was exposed “by a Russian accountant named Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested after helping report the fraud to Russian authorities.”
Mr Magnitsky’s death in custody prompted Congress to pass the Magnitsky act in 2010 which imposes sanctions on Russians believed to be responsible for his death.
Updated: January 9, 2019 11:04 AM