Federal prosecutors charged Natalia Veselnitskaya — the Russian attorney who met with Trump campaign officials at Trump Tower in 2016 — with obstruction of justice on Tuesday in a civil money laundering case not directly tied to Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s Russia probe.
Fox News reported, “Veselnitskaya represented Cyprus-based real estate holdings company Prevezon Holdings, in a money laundering lawsuit brought by the Justice Department.”
“In the case, the government sought to prove that Veselnitskaya’s clients had received and laundered a portion of the proceeds of a Russian tax refund fraud scheme involving corrupt Russian officials,” the news outlet added.
Department of Justice attorneys from New York’s Southern District said that Veselnitskaya submitted to the court an “intentionally misleading declaration in opposition to a government motion.”
According to the criminal complaint filed in federal court, “Veselnitskaya obstructed justice in the Prevezon Action, through her submission to the U.S. District Court of an intentionally misleading declaration that, among other things, represented the supposed investigative findings by the Russian Government related to the Prevezon Action as independently drafted.”
The complaint continues, “In truth and in fact, and as Veselnitskaya well knew, but concealed from the Court, Veselnitskaya, a member of the defense team in the Prevezon Action, had participated in drafting those supposed independent investigative findings in secret cooperation with a senior Russian prosecutor. In so doing, Veselnitskaya obstructed a the civil proceeding in the Prevezon Action then pending in this District.”
According to Fox, the money laundering scheme was first uncovered by the late Russian legal adviser Sergei Magnitsky, who had been hired to investigate alleged theft from the Russian government, sanctioned and carried out by Russian oligarchs.
Magnitsky was arrested in Russia in last 2008 and held in prison without trial where he was brutally beaten and died days before the law required him to be released, The Telegraph reported.
In 2012, Congress passed and then President Barack Obama signed into law the Magnitsky Act, which bars the Russian officials believed to be involved with Magnitsky’s death from entering the U.S. or using its banking system.
In response, Russia blocked the adoption of orphans from Russia by Americans.
Veselnitskaya, 43, is believed to currently be in Russia, The New York Times reported.
Though the case against Veselnitskaya is not being brought by special counsel Mueller’s team, the prosecution foreseeably could be used to gain leverage over the Russian, in a similar fashion employed against Trump’s personal attorney Michael Cohen.
She is said to have discussed lifting the Magnitsky Act sanctions during her Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner and Paul Manafort in June 2016.
According to The Times, the meeting remains a focus of Mueller’s probe into Russian interference in the presidential election.
In a statement released in July 2017 describing the meeting, Donald Trump Jr. acknowledged having a sit down with Veselnitskaya in the hopes of receiving information that would be helpful in his father’s presidential race.
“We had a meeting in June 2016,” Trump said. “After pleasantries were exchanged, the (Veselnitskaya) stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton. Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense.”
Trump said that she provided no supporting evidence and, “It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information. She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act.”
He recalled it also became clear to him this had been her true agenda all along and the claims of helpful information about Clinton were a “pretext for the meeting.”
“I interrupted and advised her that my father was not an elected official, but rather a private citizen, and that her comments and concerns were better addressed if and when he held public office,” Trump said. He recounted the meeting lasted about 20 or 30 minutes.
Last May, Glenn Simpson — co-founder of Fusion GPS, the firm the commissioned the Trump Russia dossier for the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign — testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee that he dined with Veselnitskaya the day before and the day after her Trump Tower meeting, RealClear Investigations reported.
Simpson said he also ran into her in court the day of the meeting, June 9, 2016.
However, he told senators Veselnitskaya did not make him aware of her sit down with the Trump campaign officials.
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