Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya, who was at the center of a controversial 2016 Trump Tower meeting, was charged in federal court on Tuesday with obstruction of justice in connection to a civil money laundering and forfeiture case involving a Russian tax refund fraud scheme, first uncovered by the late Sergei Magnitsky.
Veselnitskaya represented Cyprus-based real estate holdings company Prevezon Holdings, in a money laundering lawsuit brought by the Justice Department. In the case, the government sought to prove that Veselnitskaya’s clients had received and laundered a portion of the proceeds of a Russian tax refund fraud scheme involving corrupt Russian officials.
Federal prosecutors in New York’s Southern District said on Tuesday that Veselnitskaya submitted to the court an “intentionally misleading declaration in opposition to a government motion.”
The motion, according to SDNY, presented “supposed investigative findings by the Russian government—findings purportedly exonerating Veselnitskaya’s clients – under the false pretense that these findings had been independently drafted by the Russian government.”
“As alleged, however, Veselnitskaya concealed from the Court that she, as a member of the defense team in the Prevezon action, had participated in drafting those supposed exculpatory investigative findings in secret cooperation with a senior Russian prosecutor,” federal prosecutors said Tuesday.
“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,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement.
The scheme was first uncovered by the late Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian legal adviser who was hired by American-born British businessman Bill Browder to uncover details of massive financial fraud in Russia involving corrupt Russian government officials. Magnitsky was imprisoned and ultimately beaten to death while in custody. In the wake of his death, the U.S. passed a law in his name that brought sanctions against Russian oligarchs suspected of money laundering.