Russian tied to 2016 Trump Tower meeting indicted in separate US case

VIDEO: REUTERS
People walk by Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan on Dec 10, 2018, in New York City.
People walk by Trump Tower in midtown Manhattan on Dec 10, 2018, in New York City.PHOTOS: AFP

NEW YORK (AFP) - The Russian lawyer whose participation in a June 2016 meeting with top officials of President Donald Trump's election campaign has given rise to allegations of collusion has been indicted in a separate money laundering case, US prosecutors said on Tuesday (Jan 8).

Natalya Veselnitskaya was charged with fabricating evidence in a 2013 case the US filed against a Russian company, Prevezon Holdings, which was allegedly involved in a US$230 million (S$300 million) tax fraud scheme in Moscow.

The money was purportedly derived from a fraudulent tax refund scheme exposed by crusading lawyer Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested by Russian authorities and died in prison in 2009 when he was allegedly denied adequate care for severe health conditions.

Veselnitskaya "is now a wanted person in the United States for intentionally misleading US investigators," said Homeland Security investigator Angel Melendez.

The arrest was, at least on the surface, unrelated to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia in the 2016 election.

Mueller has focused on the June 9, 2016 meeting, in which Veselnitskaya offered the Trump campaign dirt on his election rival Hillary Clinton.

The meeting included campaign chair Paul Manafort, Trump's son Donald Jr, and son-in-law Jared Kushner.

All have said that Veselnitskaya had nothing on Clinton for them and sought to discuss other matters, and she has denied meddling in election issues.

But Mueller is also reportedly examining whether Trump and his aides obstructed justice in an effort to hide details of the meeting from investigators.