Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya was charged with obstruction of justice by the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York Tuesday. The Kremlin-connected attorney allegedly colluded with Russian government officials in an attempt to subvert a U.S. civil money laundering action against her clients in 2014.
Veselnitskaya’s more well-known role is that of the Russian attorney who met with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and other members of the Trump presidential team at Trump Tower in the summer of 2016. The suit does not touch on the Trump Tower meeting or the purported information on Trump’s then-opponent, Hillary Clinton, that was alleged to have been offered to the campaign.
Yet the allegations by prosecutors in Manhattan claim strong connections between Veselnitskaya and Russian government officials.
According to the unsealed indictment, Veselnitskaya hid from U.S. officials her role in manufacturing and producing information from the Russian government that allegedly exonerated her clients in United States v. Prevezon Holdings, 13-civ-6326.
U.S. officials in that case alleged that Veselnitskaya’s clients laundered portions of a $200 million Russian tax fraud scheme that involved corrupt officials in the Russian government. Specifically, one defendant—a real estate company—received nearly $2 million from a shell company set up as part of the scheme.
According to the indictment, Veselnitskaya sought to deny the U.S. government’s partial summary judgment motion in 2015 by providing the court with a copy of a report produced by the Russian government that purported to exonerate all Russian government personnel involved in the alleged scheme.
Veselnitskaya claimed to have gone to great lengths to retrieve the report, including fighting in Russian court to compel the Russian Prosecutor General’s Office to provide her with a copy after initially refusing to do so.
All this, U.S. officials now allege, was a ruse.
According to the indictment, emails obtained by the U.S. government show Veselnitskaya communicating directly with a senior Russian prosecutor to help draft the report, which was initially prepared in response to an official U.S. government request for information from the Russian government. Veselnitskaya sent drafts of the document to the personal email account of the prosecution in the office of the prosecutor, the Russian equivalent of the attorney general in the U.S. Some of the language Veselnitskaya offered up appears verbatim in the report, U.S. prosecutors claim.
Far from having to battle to get the report, a draft final version was sent by the same prosecutor to Veselnitskaya, according to the indictment.
None of this information was provided to the U.S. court at the time. The court denied the motion by the government, which Veselnitskaya opposed, and the case ultimately settled before trial.
“Fabricating evidence—submitting false and deceptive declarations to a federal judge—in an attempt to affect the outcome of pending litigation not only undermines the integrity of the judicial process, but it threatens the ability of our courts and our Government to ensure that justice is done,” U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman of the Southern District of New York said. “We take seriously our responsibility to protect the integrity of the judicial proceedings in this District, and we will not stand idly by while outside influences seek to corrupt and pervert that process.”
Counsel for Veselnitskaya, a Russian national, is currently unknown.
Read the indictment: