January 17, 2019

Veselnitskaya, Russian in Trump Tower Meeting, Is Charged in Case That Shows Kremlin Ties

Veselnitskaya, Russian in Trump Tower Meeting, Is Charged in Case That Shows Kremlin Ties


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Natalia V. Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who in 2016 met with Trump campaign officials in Trump Tower, was charged on Tuesday in a separate case that showed her close ties to the Kremlin.

Ms. Veselnitskaya, a pivotal figure in the investigation into Russian interference in the presidential election, was charged by federal prosecutors in New York with seeking to thwart an earlier Justice Department investigation into money laundering that involved an influential Russian businessman and his investment firm.

The money-laundering case was not directly related to the Trump Tower meeting. But a federal indictment returned in Manhattan seemed to confirm that Ms. Veselnitskaya had deep ties to senior Russian government officials.

The indictment charges that after the Justice Department asked the Russian government to assist its civil fraud investigation, the Russian government refused, responding with a letter that purported to exonerate Russian officials and the firm’s personnel.

The indictment says Ms. Veselnitskaya had secretly cooperated with a senior Russian prosecutor in drafting the “intentionally misleading” Russian response, which was filed in federal court in Manhattan. “In doing so, Veselnitskaya obstructed the civil proceeding,” the indictment said. She is charged with one count of obstruction of justice.

Ms. Veselnitskaya, 43, is believed to be in Russia, according to the United States attorney’s office for the Southern District of New York, which moved to unseal the indictment on Tuesday. The office gave no indication that it expected her to be sent to Manhattan to face charges.

The new indictment again raises questions about whom Ms. Veselnitskaya was representing when she met with Donald Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, Paul Manafort and others at Trump Tower in Manhattan during the campaign.

That meeting is one focus of the special counsel’s investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election. It was organized after an intermediary promised that Ms. Veselnitskaya would deliver documents that would incriminate Hillary Clinton.

Last April, Ms. Veselnitskaya acknowledged in an interview with NBC News that she was not merely a private lawyer, but a source of information for the Russian prosecutor general, Yuri Y. Chaika.

Now prosecutors say she collaborated clandestinely with that office to write an official letter than benefited her client, the investment firm Prevezon Holdings Ltd., and its owner, Denis P. Katsyv, in the Justice Department’s civil fraud case.

For years, Ms. Veselnitskaya has been regarded as a trusted insider and go-to lawyer for the Moscow regional government.

In the fraud case, filed in 2013, the prosecutors in the Southern District accused Prevezon and other defendants of using real estate purchases in New York to launder a small portion of the profits of an elaborate $230 million Russian tax fraud scheme. The lawsuit was settled last May on the eve of trial for about $6 million, with Prevezon admitting no fault.

The broader Russian scheme had been uncovered by Sergei L. Magnitsky, the Russian tax lawyer who was imprisoned after exposing the scheme and died in a Moscow jail.



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