Justice Department settled money laundering case handled by Russian attorney who met with Donald Trump Jr. 

Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner met with a Russian lawyer whose client accused of money laundering got a generous settlement in May.

Seventeen Democratic members of the House Committee on the Judiciary wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions to request information about his decision to abruptly settle United States v. Prevezon Holdings Ltd, a money laundering case that the Department of Justice (DOJ) abruptly settled that involved Russia sanctions, New York real estate holdings, and the lawyer who met with Donald Trump Jr.

In their letter, the lawmakers wrote, “Last summer, Donald Trump, Jr. met with a Kremlin-connected attorney in an attempt to obtain information ‘that would incriminate Hillary.’  Earlier this year, on May 12, 2017, the Department of Justice made an abrupt decision to settle a money laundering case being handled by that same attorney in the Southern District of New York. We write with some concern that the two events may be connected—and that the Department may have settled the case at a loss for the United States in order to obscure the underlying facts.”

In addition to the letter, House Judiciary Ranking Member John Conyers, Jr., issued the following statement:

“The connections here are too substantial to ignore.  Why was a Russian money-laundering case involving more than $230 million dismissed without explanation?  Why was a central figure in that case chosen to approach the Trump campaign about assistance from the Russian government?  Was the firing of Preet Bharara in any way related to his office’s prosecution of these crimes?  Wittingly or unwittingly, was the Department of Justice involved?

“Even if these facts are mere coincidence—and there is reason to be doubtful that they are mere coincidence—they merit immediate explanation by the Attorney General and immediate investigation by the House Judiciary Committee.”

Natalia Veselnitskaya and Rinat Akhmetshin met with Donald Trump’s son and top aides last year despite denials that his campaign colluded with Russian efforts to influence the election.

The Prevezon case relates to a massive tax-theft and money laundering scheme uncovered in 2007 by Russian lawyer Sergei Magnitsky.

His 2012 death in Russian custody led to passage of the Sergei Magnitsky Rule of Law Accountability Act, which enabled President Obama to sanction the Russian officials thought responsible for such human rights abuses.

2013 complaint filed in federal court alleged that Prevezon helped to launder more than $230 million stolen from the Russian treasury, largely through high-end real estate in Manhattan.

One of Prevezon’s attorneys was Natalia Veselnitskaya—a lawyer known for lobbying against the Magnitsky Act, and the “Russian government attorney” who met with Donald Trump, Jr. and others to discuss “information and official documents that would incriminate Hillary” on June 9, 2016.

Even Donald Trump Jr.’s alternative explanations for this meeting—he described the discussion, at one point, as “primarily about adoption”—appear to turn on Veselnitkaya’s efforts to protect her client and undo U.S. sanctions on Russian officials.

On May 12, 2017—just two days before the Prevezon trial was set to begin—the Department of Justice settled the case for less than $6 million and no admission of guilt, and Veselnitskaya told one Russian news outlet that the penalty was so light that it seemed “almost an apology from the government.

In a March 31, 2017 press release, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley said Prevezon’s lobbying efforts involved lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin, who he described as “a suspected former Russian intelligence officer-turned U.S. lobbyist.”

Akhmetshin acknowledged he is a former Soviet Army counter-intelligence officer but denies allegations by US officials who say he remains linked to Russian spy agencies.

Akhmetshin was with Veselnitskaya when she met with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort and Jared Kushner at Trump Tower last year, before the Republican nomination was settled.

Full text of the letter to Attorney General Sessions can be found here.


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