MANHATTAN—An indictment was unsealed today against Natalya Vesenlnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who gained noteriety last year amidst media speculation concerning what transpired during her infamous 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr. and Jared Kushner. At first glance, the indictment appears unrelated to the meeting but reveals a federal grand jury had charged Vesenlnitskaya with obstructing justice, namely falsifying evidence, in United States v. Prevezon Holdings, Ltd. a case filed in 2013 by then-U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara, who sought to recover real estate in Manhattan allegedly acquired by corrupt Russian officials in an elaborate scheme to defraud the Russian Treasury and taxpayers out of approximately 5.4 billion rubles (i.e. $230 million USD).
Russian officials steal taxpayer money.
The Prevezon complaint had alleged that Russian officials involved in a widespread criminal enterprise that created shell entities to file sham lawsuits as plaintiffs against 3 legitimate companies held by Hermitage Capital Management Ltd. The twist, however, is that the criminal enterprise also acted covertly as the defendants by covertly steeling the identities of the Hermitage companies. In doing so, the criminal enterprise procured $1 billion dollars in judgments against the Hermitage companies. Thereafter, the criminal enterprise continued to impersonate the stolen Hermitage companies and claimed the $1 billion dollars in losses as a basis for requesting approximately $230 million dollars in tax refunds from the Russian Treasury.Insiders at the Russian Treasury immediately approved the refunds which were transferred to a number of bank accounts controlled by the criminal enterprise. The funds were subsequently funneled through a number of other bank accounts including accounts held by Denis Katsyv’s Prevezon Holdings Ltd., and related entities, located in the Republic of Cyprus. In turn, the Prevezon entities acquired and managed real estate investments in Manhattan with the illicit funds.
Prison guards beat Magnitsky to death.
Sergei Magnitsky uncovered the scheme and reported it to Russian authorities, who in turn arrested him in retaliation. He was placed at Matrosskaya Tishnia prison in Moscow for nearly a year, without a trial, until 8 guards beat him to death. Magnitsky died at the age of 37.
U.S. officials ask for records from Russian government.
In March 2014, the United States, pursuant to a Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT) request, sought records regarding the Russian Treasury and bank records to trace the flow of the illicit funds. By late August 2014, the U.S. Government received a MLAT response from the Office of the Prosecutor General of the Russian Federation, which contained a 14 page document with supposed findings that exonerated all Russian government officials and accused Sergei Manigtsky and William Browder, the CEO of Hermitage Capital Management, Ltd., of committing fraud. After Magnitsky was killed, Browder lobbied the U.S. Congress to pass the Magnitsky Act. As a result of the supposed findings in the MLAT response, the Russian Government refused to provide the records.
Vesenlnitskaya covers it up.
The indictment against Vesenlnitskaya alleges that while she had defended Prevezon and related entities, she falsified evidence in a declaration concerning the MLAT response. Vesenlnitskaya declared, under penalty of perjury, that she went to great lengths to request a copy of the MLAT response from the Russian Government, which supposedly refused to release it to her. Instead, the Prevezon defendants received the MLAT response when it was produced by U.S. Attorneys during pretrial litigation.In Vesenlnitskaya’s declaration, she argued the MLAT response exonerated the defendants and blamed Magnitsky for the Russian Treasury fraud. The indictment against Vesenlnitskaya, however, alleges that she had in fact helped draft and edit the report—while she acted as legal advisor to defendants in Prevezon. Veselnitskaya had even exchanged emails with the supervising Russian prosecutor responsible for the report. Their emails contained several drafts and revisions that were sent back and forth–with changes tracked. Veselnitskaya was allegedly so reckless that she had copied Pyotr Katsyv, Denis Ktasyv’s father, on the emails.
Specifically, Veselnitskaya added portions to the report blaming Magnitsky and Browder for the Russian Treasury fraud. According to the indictment, the Russian prosecutor adopted Veselnitskaya’s additions almost verbatim.