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Russian lawyer who met Trump Jr. charged in unrelated case

AP  |  New York 

The Russian who attended the that is a focus of the special counsel's investigation into possible collusion was charged with obstructing an unrelated tax-fraud case, federal prosecutors in has said.

was indicted on one count of obstruction of justice after prosecutors said she teamed up with a senior Russian and submitted deceptive declarations in a civil proceeding involving a Russian tax refund fraud scheme.

The indictment, which is unrelated to Russian election interference and brought by the attorney, illustrates Veselnitskaya's close ties to the Russian government, which she has denied.

It renews questions about the circumstances of the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, which also was attended by Jr. and Trump

Trump Jr. has acknowledged that he met with Veselnitskaya because he had been told she could offer damaging information about Democrat from the But Trump Jr. and Kushner said the meeting amounted to nothing and mostly involved Russia's ban on American adoptions in response to US sanctions.

Veselnitskaya has previously denied acting on behalf of Russian officials when she met with the Trump team, telling she operates "independently of any government bodies."

Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether the Trump campaign coordinated with during the presidential campaign, has focused on the and called some participants before a federal grand jury.

He also has scrutinised Trump's role in drafting a misleading public statement about the meeting's content.

James Margolin, a for the attorney's office, said Veselnitskaya's criminal case did not originate from a referral by Mueller, noting the allegations relate only to her work for the Russian company and "are unrelated to any other investigation."

Peter Carr, a for Mueller's office, declined comment on the case.

Veselnitskaya, a 43-year-old based in Russia, did not respond to a telephone call and text message from

The indictment unsealed Tuesday will curtail Veselnitskaya's international travel and expose her to arrest if she comes to the US But does not have an extradition treaty with the U.S. and she will likely never appear in a if she remains there.

The indictment was filed under seal in December and publicly announced Tuesday by

The criminal case relates to firm and its role in an alleged $230 million tax-fraud scheme that federal officials say was "perpetrated by a criminal organization that included in its ranks corrupt Russian officials."

In 2013, US prosecutors brought a civil lawsuit against the company that sought to recover millions of dollars worth of and other property on the grounds that it was tainted by money laundering.

The fraud scheme involved using stolen corporate identities to obtain Russian tax refunds and funneling the illegal proceeds through a network of shell companies.

Veselnitskaya was retained to assist the defendants. As part of that representation, the indictment accuses her of misrepresenting a declaration that she submitted to a

The indictment says Veselnitskaya claimed that the material she submitted to the court was an independent finding when in fact the document was an "intentionally misleading declaration" that she had secretly drafted with a senior prosecutor, who is not named in court papers.

Prevezon settled the civil case in 2017 but balked at a negotiated payment. A ordered the firm last February to pay USD 6 million to the

The companies that claimed they had been defrauded by Prevezon were owned by Hermitage Capital Management, whose aided the government's case.

Browder has championed sanctions against Russia, accusing its officials of collaborating in the imprisonment that led to the death of his Russian

Magnitsky was arrested while investigating the fraud case and died in a Russian prison in 2009. passed the Magnitsky Law in 2012 to target those allegedly involved in his arrest and death with financial sanctions.

Veselnitskaya's legal work for Prevezon is also connected to another participant,

Prevezon owner helped fund a lobbying effort carried out by Akhmetshin that sought to poke holes in Magnitsky's story. Akhmetshin, a former Russian and lobbyist, later accompanied Veselnitskaya to the Trump Tower meeting.

(This story has not been edited by Business Standard staff and is auto-generated from a syndicated feed.)

First Published: Wed, January 09 2019. 05:35 IST