Russian lawyer in Trump Tower meeting has ties to Kremlin

Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Moscow Russia

Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya speaks during an interview with The Associated Press in Moscow Russia

A Russian lawyer who became a focal point of the investigation into whether there was collusion between Russians and President Donald Trump's election campaign has been charged with obstruction of justice in an unrelated case.

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

Donald Trump, Jr. met with Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya at Trump Tower in New York City in 2016. "In doing so, Veselnitskaya obstructed the civil proceeding", the indictment charged.

Veselnitskaya was also working with another entity involved in the Trump-Russia saga on the Prevezon case - Fusion GPS, a D.C. -based private intelligence firm that gained notoriety for commissioning the Steele dossier.

On Tuesday, Ms Veselnitskaya was accused in a court filing of secretly working with Russian government figures over a statement which misled the USA courts in a money laundering case.

Ms Veselnitskaya has denied connections to the Russian government since her meeting with then-candidate Donald Trump's son, son-in-law Jared Kushner, and campaign chairman Paul Manafort, surfaced during the investigation of Moscow's meddling in the 2016 presidential election. But while the case was in process, Veselnitskaya arranged the Trump Tower meeting, which has become an area of focus for special counsel Robert Mueller as he investigates whether the Trump campaign colluded with Russian Federation in its attempt to tip the election away from Hillary Clinton.

'The Crown prosecutor of Russian Federation met with his father Aras this morning and in their meeting offered to provide the Trump campaign with some official documents and information that would incriminate Hillary and her dealings with Russian Federation and would be very useful to your father, ' according to the email.

"It is one more piece to suggest she is acting on behalf of the Russian Government."

The indictment goes on to allege that Prevezon repeated Veselnitskaya's claims in their own court filings in the case.

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Yet in July, 2017, Kremlin officials said they don't know Veselnitskaya.

The meeting at Trump Tower in June 2016 is being looked into by special counsel Robert Mueller as he probes whether there was any collusion between members of the Trump campaign and Russian Federation.

However, the parent company of multiple victims hired Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky to help in their effort. The alleged tax fraud scheme came at the expense of an investment firm, Hermitage Capital, owned by an American investor, Bill Browder, according to a USA indictment.

After Magnitsky discovered the alleged fraud, he was arrested and held for nearly a year in pretrial detention in Moscow, where he eventually died at age 37, the USA indictment filed at the time alleges.

[Veselnitskaya] concealed from the Court that she, as a member of the defense team ... had participated in drafting those supposed exculpatory investigative findings in secret cooperation with a senior Russian prosecutor.
Yet, the USA government pushed back on that characterization.

Veselnitskaya also represented a man accused of involvement in the alleged fraud scheme uncovered by Magnitsky.

The U.S. attorney's office settled the case against Prevezon a year ago for $5.8 million, a small fraction of the monies originally alleged to have been involved.

According to the indictment in United States of America v. Natalia Veselnitskaya, "the United States government sought to recover several million dollars' worth of property, mainly NY real estate, on the ground that this property was involved in laundering a portion of the proceeds of a Russian tax fraud scheme". The case was settled in 2017, with Prevezon paying a $5.9 million fine without admitting any wrongdoing.

Browder went on to push for the passage of two laws: the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which penalized the Russian officials involved in Magnitsky's case; and the 2016 Global Magnitsky Act, which imposes sanctions on foreign individuals and entities for human rights abuses.

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