Mueller Tacks On Another Guilty Plea In Russia Probe

Russia probe Mueller charges lawyer with lying about role of Manafort partner

Business Insider reports Van der Zwaan has been accused of "willfully and knowingly" making "false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations" to federal investigators about his work for a law firm hired by the Ukraine Ministry of Justice in 2012 to compile a report about the trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Van der Zwaan arrives at Federal Court on February 20.

Van der Zwaan is also accused of lying to investigators about why he did not provide Mueller's office with a September 2016 email between him and another person referred to in the charge as "Person A".

The charge against van der Zwaan does not involve election meddling or the Trump campaign's operations.

On Oct. 27, prosecutors accused Manafort and Gates of hiding their lobbying work in Ukraine and laundering millions of dollars. The firm told the Times a year ago that the refund represented "the balance of Ukraine's payment, which had been held in escrow for future work".

Prosecutors on Friday announced that a federal grand jury had indicted the Russia-based Internet Research Agency, two other Russian entities, and 13 Russian individuals, accusing them of interfering with the 2016 election. But prosecutors say that wasn't true. Van der Zwaan is the son-in-law of Ukrainian-Russian billionaire German Khan. Khan is a shareholder of Alfa Group, a Russian banking and investment concern, and a board member at LetterOne Holdings, the investment vehicle set up by the founders of Alfa Group.

Van der Zwaan did not have a lawyer listed on the public court docket.

The report was authored by Washington law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, known as Skadden Arps.

The case against van der Zwaan shows that Mueller is proceeding methodically and increasing pressure on key witnesses, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said in a statement.

Van der Zwaan pleaded guilty to lying to investigators about his communications with Rick Gates and an unidentified third person. The report defied the view held by the USA and the European Union that the case against her was politically motivated.

Gates and Manafort would go on to become part of the Trump campaign.

The charging document also says he claimed that he exchanged an "innocuous text message" with Gates in mid-August 2016, and said falsely that was their last interaction.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller has charged a lawyer with ties to the Ukrainian government with lying to federal investigators.

Skadden's $12,000 fee for its 2012 report on Tymoshenko was modest, just below the amount that required public bidding.

The two former aides have been charged with conspiracy to launder money and failure to register as foreign agents in connection with work for a pro-Russia Ukrainian party.

Yanukovych was ousted from the presidency in 2014 amid widespread protests against his Russia-friendly positions and his decision to back out of a deal that would have promoted closer ties between Ukraine and the West and distanced Ukraine from Russian Federation.

The report's credibility has been attacked by former USA ambassador to Ukraine John Herbst, who told the New York Times (paywall) the report was "a nasty piece of work" and that Skadden "should have been ashamed of it".

Van der Zwaan faces a maximum of five years in prison and a fine of up to $250,000, though it's more likely he'll serve zero to six months and pay between $500 and $9,500 for his crime, the judge said Tuesday. But past year, after the Justice Department began inquiring about it, Skadden refunded to the Ukrainian government $567,000 - about half of the total it was reportedly paid. They were also interested in payments for that work, the newspaper reported. Ukrainian prosecutors confirmed that Skadden refunded $567,000 to Ukraine, saying it had been overpaid. Mueller's focus on the Skadden case was first reported in September. Craig and Sloan both declined to comment. It stems from the special counsel's investigation into a covert Washington lobbying campaign Manafort and Gates are accused of directing on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian interests.

Gates met Manafort almost three decades ago while he was an intern at Black, Manafort, Stone, and Kelly - one of the most powerful lobbying firms in DC. "Prosecutors typically very methodically start with low level offenders and try to work their way up the chain", said Barbara McQuade, a former USA attorney for the Eastern District of MI.

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