Connected lawyer involved in Trump Tower meeting charged with obstruction of justice


Veselnitskaya was the key participant in the June 2016 meeting with Donald Trump Jr and Trump son-in-law Jared Kushner that was described to Trump Jr as part of a Russian government effort to help his father's campaign. The Kremlin-connected attorney allegedly colluded with Russian government officials in an attempt to subvert a USA civil money laundering action against her clients in 2014.

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.

Donald Trump Jr, the President's son, has said he agreed to the meeting after being promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton, Mr Trump's Democratic opponent.

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

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Former federal prosecutor Elie Honig broke down the ramifications of the revelations, pursued by the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's Office. Peter Carr, a spokesman for Mueller's office, declined comment on the case.

Natalya Veselnitskaya was charged in an indictment unsealed Tuesday in federal court in NY.

The incident sparked the United States to pass the Magnitsky Act, which allowed the US government to sanction officials found to have committed human rights violations in Russian Federation.

On the same day as the Trump Tower meeting, Veselnitskaya attended oral arguments at the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in the US government's forfeiture case against a Russian-controlled real estate holding company Prevezon Holdings Ltd, which US prosecutors accused of laundering some of the proceeds of a $US230 million Russian tax fraud scheme. The department had alleged in a civil complaint that a Russian criminal organization ran an elaborate tax refund scheme, stealing the identities of targeted companies and filing sham lawsuits to incur fake losses for refund purposes.

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Veselnitskaya was retained to assist the defendants.

"Veselnitskaya's declaration presented supposed investigative findings by the Russian government - findings purportedly exonerating Veselnitskaya's clients - under the false pretence that these findings had been independently drafted by the Russian government", the indictment says.

Prevezon Holdings agreed to pay almost $US6 million to settle the case in 2017. A federal judge ordered the firm last February to pay $6 million to the US government.

At the center of the case is the Russian state-owned real-estate company Prevezon, which is incorporated in Cyprus. Browder has championed sanctions against Russia, accusing its officials of collaborating in the imprisonment that led to the death of his Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky. Magnitsky - the namesake for the US law - died in Russian prison after reportedly investigating tax fraud that affected a company belonging to financier William Browder.

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Congress passed the Magnitsky Act in 2012, and Browder is still lobbying for a version of the law to be passed in the European Union.