Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was instrumental in arranging the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and other Trump advisers, was charged on Tuesday with obstructing justice in a New York-based money laundering investigation that ended in 2017. And it renews questions about the circumstances of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which also was attended by Donald Trump Jr. and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner.
Louise Shelley, the director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center at George Mason University, who was due to serve as an expert witness for the prosecution in the Prevezon case, said she was unsurprised by the indictment against Veselnitskaya and said it was a prime example of how Russian officials are able to undermine the integrity of prosecutions that are potentially politically sensitive.
Federal prosecutors in New York's Southern District said on Tuesday that Veselnitskaya submitted to the court an "intentionally misleading declaration in opposition to a government motion".
"Now we know that she was working directly with corrupt, Russian officials", former prosecutor Honig said.
You can read the indictment for yourself here.
She has previously denied acting on behalf of Russian officials when she met with the Trump team, telling Congress she operates "independently of any government bodies". Magnitsky was then arrested and died in prison under suspicious circumstances.
Veselnitskaya, an attorney based in Russian Federation, was retained to assist the defendants.
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The U.S. and Russian Federation do not share an extradition treaty.
Emails released by Trump Jr. show that he agreed to the meeting after being told the "crown prosecutor of Russia" wanted to give the Trump campaign incriminating information about Clinton.
The indictment charges that, contrary to those claims, US investigators obtained emails between Veselnitskaya and a Russian prosecutor in which, together, they worked on the language of the Russian government's response.
The parent company of the victim firms hired attorneys to investigate after learning of the sham lawsuits, including Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, and they uncovered the fraud scheme, in which Russian government officials were complicit, prosecutors said. Fusion GPS also provided information that Veselnitskaya provided to Russia's prosecutor general, Yuri Chaika.
He said the investigation "brought to light how Veselnitskaya secretly schemed with a senior Russian prosecutor to provide false information to USA law enforcement in an attempt to influence the legal proceedings" a federal court in Manhattan.
The U.S. government accused Prevezon of laundering more than $230 million in stolen Russian tax funds out of the country into bank accounts and other assets around the world, including NY luxury apartments.
In May 2017, just a few months after Trump became president, the newly promoted NY district attorney suddenly settled with Prevezon for $6 million, days before the trial opened. Yet, the USA government pushed back on that characterization.