The New York Times is reporting that Natalia Veselnitskaya—the Russian lawyer made famous by her participation in the Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump’s top campaign staff—has been indicted by federal prosecutors. The indictment is not part of the special counsel investigation into connections between Donald Trump’s campaign and Russia. However, there could definitely be implications for both Veselnitskaya and Trump.
Veselnitskaya represents Russian-owned Prevezon Holdings in a civil case concerning charges of money laundering and tax fraud. Federal prosecutors have accused Prevezon of stealing the identity of other companies to collect tax refunds and of falsifying losses to disguise revenues. These schemes allowed Prevezon to funnel more than $230 million through a Cyrus-based shell company. Importantly, the money then came back into the U.S. in the form of real estate purchases, including luxury apartments in Manhattan.
The indictment against Veselnitskaya charges her with working directly with the Russian government to create false cover for Prevezon and the Russian oligarchs behind the scheme, saying that “In doing so, Veselnitskaya obstructed the civil proceeding.” That further cements the connection between both Prevezon and Veselnitskaya to Vladimir Putin’s government.
So … the Russian lawyer from the Trump Tower meeting, despite claims that she was a private citizen, was working directly with the Russian government to cover up a conspiracy to commit tax fraud, identity theft, and money laundering through real estate. That’s exactly the same kind of money laundering and tax fraud behind the charges against former Trump campaign chair Paul Manafort, and exactly the kind of money laundering that powered Trump back from bankruptcy. Trump’s surrogates, including Rudy Giuliani, will be quick to dismiss the charges against Veselnitskaya as unrelated to Trump and unrelated to “collusion.” But federal prosecutors are charging one of those present at the Trump Tower meeting with working directly with the Russian government in a scheme to obstruct justice in the United States. That’s a big deal, and it is collusion.
Prevezon is owned by oligarchs who are desperate to move money into the United States, but are hampered in that process by sanctions under the Magnitsky Act—because these are the same guys who were behind beating Sergei Magnitsky to death. When Donald Trump Jr. tried to dismiss the Trump Tower meeting as being about “Russian adoption,” what he was talking about was Russia’s response to the Magnitsky Act.
No matter how many times Giuliani jumps up to say “not connected” … it’s connected.
CNN has posted the indictment. Veselnitskaya “obstructed justice” through the submission of “an intentionally misleading statement.” The very same charge could be applied to Donald Trump Jr., and possibly Donald Trump, in talking about the Trump Tower meeting.
While many of the Russians charged by Robert Mueller are outside the U.S. and unlikely to ever be subject to fallout from their illegal activities beyond possible financial sanctions, Veselnitskaya is not.