Russian lawyer in Trump Tower meeting charged with obstruction of justice

Lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya during an interview

Lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya during an interview

According to the indictment, Veselnitskaya sought to deny the USA 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.

While Veselnitskaya's close ties to the Russian government have been well-documented, Tuesday's indictment describes her as a co-conspirator with Russian prosecutors to obstruct the USA investigation.

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.

Veselnitskaya, who is believed to be in Russian Federation, could not be immediately reached for comment.

The charge against Veselnitskaya was not directly related to special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of the president's relationship to the Kremlin and whether Trump conspired with Moscow's effort to interfere in US politics and catapult him into the Oval Office.

He has also scrutinised Mr Trump's involvement in drafting a misleading public statement about the meeting's content.

The indictment was sought by the US attorney's office for the Southern District of NY and does not appear to be related to the Mueller investigation.

Speaking to CNN on Tuesday, Ms Veselnitskaya said she would "defend her professional honour" but declined to comment further.

The Washington Post reports that Veselnitskaya has been charged with making a "misleading declaration" in court as part of a civil case involving money laundering.

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The indictment was filed under seal in December and publicly announced Tuesday by Manhattan U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman.

Veselnitskaya represented Cyprus-based real estate holdings company Prevezon Holdings, in a money laundering lawsuit brought by the Justice Department in 2013.

Veselnitskaya was retained to assist the defendants.

Veselnitskaya's declaration "presented supposed investigative findings by the Russian government" where in fact she had drafted those findings in secret cooperation with a senior Russian prosecutor, prosecutors said. The case was settled in 2017 with Prevezon agreeing to pay $5.9 million in fines. A federal judge ordered the firm last February to pay $6 million to the USA government.

U.S. media report that the lawyer is thought to now be in Russian Federation.

The scheme was exposed by crusading lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested by Russian authorities and died in prison in 2009 after he was allegedly denied adequate care for severe health conditions.

Congress passed the Magnitsky Act in 2012, and Browder is still lobbying for a version of the law to be passed in the European Union.

The case does not relate to the infamous Trump Tower meeting.

A source close to Veselnitskaya told Foreign Policy that the Russian attorney "saw no difference between her client and the Russian government".

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