Criminal Justice

Russian lawyer in Trump Tower meeting is charged with obstructing money laundering probe

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A Russian lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr. in a Trump Tower meeting is back in the news with the unsealing of an indictment on Tuesday.

Lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya was charged with obstruction of justice in connection with her representation of clients in a money laundering investigation that is unrelated to the Trump Tower meeting, report the Washington Post, the New York Times and a press release.

Prosecutors claim Veselnitskaya filed an intentionally misleading declaration with a Manhattan federal court in the money laundering probe involving corrupt Russian officials.

Veselnitskaya represented clients in a civil forfeiture action against Prevezon Holdings, accused of laundering money obtained in a Russian tax refund scheme that defrauded Russian taxpayers out of more than $200 million. The U.S. Attorney’s office was seeking to recover millions of dollars in property—mostly New York real estate—said to be purchased in the money laundering scheme.

Veselnitskaya misleading declaration falsely asserted that the Russian government had independently determined the scheme was operated without the involvement of any Russian government officials, prosecutors say. Veselnitskaya actually worked with a senior Russian prosecutor to draft the supposed exculpatory findings, the press release says.

The indictment appeared to confirm Veselnitskaya’s ties to senior Russian government officials, according to the New York Times.

The fraud scheme was uncovered by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who died in prison after being arrested in retaliation for his revelation, according to the press release. Veselnitskaya’s declaration said it was Magnitsky who committed the fraud.

Magnitsky’s death led Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act authorizing sanctions against Russia, which led Russia to retaliate by banning Russian adoptions.

Trump Jr. went to the meeting after learning he would get dirt on Hillary Clinton. But he has said the meeting with Veselnitskaya mostly involved the adoption of Russian children.

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