Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya charged with obstruction in major Russian money-laundering case

Natalia VeselnitskayaNatalia Veselnitskaya, who met with Donald Trump Jr. in June 2016, is best known in the US for defending a Russian businessman accused by the US government of laundering millions.Yury Martyanov/AP

  • New York federal prosecutors on Tuesday charged the Kremlin-allied lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya with obstruction of justice in a major Russian money-laundering case that was settled in 2017.
  • The case, which centered around whether the Russian real-estate firm Prevezon laundered millions into New York real estate, drew attention at the time because of its ties to a separate $230 million Russian tax-fraud scheme that implicated several high-level Kremlin officials and prompted the passage of the 2012 Magnitsky Act.
  • When the US government asked the Russian government for help in investigating the Prevezon case, the Russian government refused and sent over a memo that sought to exonerate Prevezon.
  • According to Tuesday's indictment, Veselnitskaya, who represented Prevezon in the case, was instrumental in drafting the memo and "in doing so, Veselnitskaya obstructed the civil proceeding."

Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Kremlin-connected lawyer at the center of a June 2016 Trump Tower meeting between Trump campaign officials and several Russians, was charged Tuesday with obstruction of justice in a separate case, The New York Times reported.

Federal prosecutors in New York indicted Veselnitskaya for seeking to hamper a Justice Department investigation into an alleged money laundering operation that involved an elaborate Russian tax-fraud scheme and implicated high-level Kremlin officials.

At the center of the case is the Russian state-owned real-estate company Prevezon, which is incorporated in Cyprus. Federal investigators had been probing whether Prevezon laundered millions of dollars into New York City real estate, and the Southern District of New York reached a settlement with Prevezon in May 2017 for $6 million.

At the time, the case drew attention because of its connection to a $230 million Russian tax fraud scheme and the Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, whose suspicious death in a Russian prison prompted the passage of the 2012 Magnitsky Act, which blacklists wealthy Russians suspected of human-rights abuses.

According to Tuesday's indictment against Veselnitskaya, after the Justice Department asked the Kremlin for help in its investigation, the Russian government refused the request and responded with a letter that sought to exonerate Russian officials and Prevezon employees from blame.

The document said Veselnitskaya, who represented Prevezon in the case, secretly cooperated with a top Russian prosecutor in drafting Russia's response and, "in doing so, Veselnitskaya obstructed the civil proceeding."

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