The Case Against Natalya Veselnitskaya

Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya has been indicted in New York and charged with obstruction of justice pertaining to a declaration she filed under penalty of perjury in a civil case between her clients (Prevezon Holdings and its chief officer, Denis Katsyv) and the Government. (She was not counsel of record -- she was hired to assist their U.S. counsel in the case. In doing so, she provided sworn declarations for the lawyers to file in support of various pleadings in the civil case.)

The Indictment is here. Veselnitskaya's Declaration that is the subject of the Indictment is here. In it she provides her working history and credentials. The Russian Prosecutor's report (referred to as the MlAT Response) is here. The letter from Russia to Veselnitskaya referred to in the Indictment is here. (I obtained these via PACER).

Vox does a good job of explaining the long and convoluted history of the civil case. It also states that while the Indictment doesn't relate to the infamous Trump Tower meeting Donald Trump Jr. presided over during his father's campaign, it does provide context for the meeting. [More...]

There’s nothing explicitly in this indictment about Trump or the Mueller probe. Veselnitskaya is instead being charged for conduct that took place months before she sat down with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner in June 2016.

Yet much of what she is said to have brought up in the infamous meeting is connected to all this. Per testimony and Manafort’s notes from the meeting, Veselnitskaya mentioned Browder, Russian adoptions by American families, and the Magnitsky Act.

The allegation that Veselnitskaya worked closely with the Russian prosecutor general’s office is also intriguing, considering that the email setting up the Trump Tower meeting claimed a “Crown prosecutor of Russia” would be providing anti-Clinton dirt to the Trump campaign.

To be fair, Veselnitskaya also provided context both as to her June 9, 2015 meeting with Donald Jr. Manafort, etc. and her version of Browder, the Maginsky Act and the Russian tax fraud in her written statement to Congress. In it, she also provides her interpretation of Rob Goldstein's reference to her as a Russian prosecutor.

I would be honored to be an attorney of the Russian Government, but I do not work for the Government of Russia....Besides my work in the Prosecutor's Office till the spring of 2001, I have not received any fees for work from the government of the Russian Federation.

As to Goldstone's message on June 3, 2016 to Donald Trump Jr. in which Goldstone writes that Emin [Agalarov] just called him and said [Emin’s] father [Aras] met with “the Crown Prosecutor of Russia”, she was asked for her understanding of who the “Crown Prosecutor of Russia” is or might be? Her response was:

I do not know what Mr. Goldstone was talking about. Given what I know, I can assume that Mr. Agalarov might tell him a little about me, mentioning that I had previously worked in the prosecutor's office, and the information I wanted to tell in the US Congress had also been reported by me before to the General Prosecutor's Office of Russia and it was confirmed there. Having compiled this, the musical producer (as I learnt more than a year later) could either confuse everything, or intentionally make everything look intriguing so that the meeting could take place.

She explains how the meeting came about: Emin's father Aras is also her client.

Around the end of May 2016, during a conversation with a good acquaintance of mine, being my client, Aras Agalarov on a topic that was not related to the United States, I shared the story faced when defending another client, Denis Katsyv, about how terribly misled the US Congress had been by the tax defrauder William Browder, convicted in Russia, who, through his lobbyists and his close-minded rank-and-file Congress staffers, succeeded in adopting the Act in the name of a person whom Browder practically hardly ever knew. I considered it my duty to inform the Congress people about it and asked Mr. Agalarov if there was any possibility of helping me or my colleagues to do this. I do not remember who of us was struck by the idea that maybe his son could talk about this with Donald Trump, Jr., who, although a businessman, was sure to have some acquaintances among Congress people.

After my conversation with Mr. Agalarov, I prepared a reference in case it would be necessary to hand over the request – to support the hearings in the Subcommittee in the US House Committee on Foreign Affairs as to the Magnitsky’s and Browder’s story, scheduled for mid-June. I was ready to hand over the reference, talk on the phone, or meet personal...

When asked if she mentioned Browder at the Trump, Jr. meeting, her response was:

Yes, I did mention him as the person who essentially is the architect of the cold war between Russia and the USA, who has been avoiding criminal liability in Russia for 12 years, a convicted criminal in Russia who had his own motives and possibilities, under the guise of defending the rights of a person he barely knew, Sergey Magnitsky, to obtain in the USA, the country he renounced almost 20 years ago, an unprecedented protection and immunity from investigation and legal accountability in the form of the Magnitsky Act

She also says that she mentioned the Magnitsky Act at the Trump Jr. meeting in the context of discussing Browder:

I cannot even imagine the faces and thoughts of the respected Congressmen if they heard and saw the documents proving that everything that has been said on Capitol Hill on Browder’s initiative over the past six years is a monstrous lie that has led to the adoption of such an act that has resulted in a cold war, discord, hatred, disruption of economic and social relations, including the adoptions ban. (my emphasis).

Then she writes:

As far as I can remember, when I was saying that the adoption of the Magnitsky Act, which might have been sponsored by Ziff brothers, as well known and active donors of the Democratic Party (see explanations in Paragraph “h”), coincided in time with the presidential campaign, Donald Trump, Jr. asked if I had any financial documents proving that what may have been illegally obtained funds were also being donated to Mrs. Clinton’s foundation. I said that I did not and that it was not my issue. The meeting, essentially, ended there. Today, I understand why it took place to begin with and why it ended so quickly with a feeling of mutual disappointment and time wasted. The answer lies in the roguish letters of Mr. Goldstone.

She clearly doesn't think much of Goldstone, referring to him at one point as "this Frankenstein writer."

Back to the criminal case against her. DOJ has had some explaining to do over the fact that it sought $230 million from Prevezon and the other defendants, and settled in 2017 for a paltry $5.9 million. With this indictment, could it be trying to wipe some egg of its face by claiming Veselnitskaya's declaration (which it alleges was misleading because of its omissions) caused the government to lose its motion for summary judgement which in turn led to the paltry settlement amount?

According to a Daily Beast article written in October, 2018, based on information that came to light in a Swiss case, the Russian prosecutor who was "accused" of "directing" Natalia Veselnitskaya's "foreign operations" is Russian Deputy Attorney General Saak Albertovich Karapetyan. He had just been reported killed in a helicopter crash.

It was Karapetyan who signed a letter from the Russian government refusing to help the U.S. in a civil case it was pursuing linked to the death of Sergei Magnitsky, a Russian lawyer who was trying to expose a $230 million fraud in Russia. Leaked emails have since shown that Veselnitskaya helped to draft the document sent with that letter.

As to her background and early dealings with the Katsv family, as reported by the Russian media, these three articles provide some information (Use Google Translate): Who Turned the Pipe (Feb. 2012) continued in Who Turned the Drawbar (March 2012) and the Moscow Post.

Veselnitskaya is not about to be arrested anytime soon (unless the US and Russia have agreed to some kind of prisoner swap) -- she is not in the U.S. and of course won't come here voluntarily with an open Indictment against her.

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    Thak you, Jeralyn. (5.00 / 1) (#2)
    by Donald from Hawaii on Wed Jan 09, 2019 at 04:06:49 PM EST
    At this point, I'm so skeptical about and angry at the Russians that I'm not going to waste my time worrying about the plight of Natalya Veselnitskaya. For obvious reasons, she's not going to be returning to the United States any time soon.

    Thank you, (5.00 / 2) (#3)
    by KeysDan on Wed Jan 09, 2019 at 04:59:25 PM EST
    Jeralyn for explaining these complexities.  The case reads as if written by Fyodor Dostoevsky.

    Very interesting (none / 0) (#1)
    by CaptHowdy on Wed Jan 09, 2019 at 03:08:50 PM EST
    I learned new things.