March 22, 2018

Special Counsel Mueller Unveils New Indictment in Russia Probe

21 February 2018, 06:38 | Simon Arnold

Alex Wong Getty Images North America

Alex Wong  Getty Images North America

Special counsel Robert Mueller today indicted (pdf) the Dutch lawyer Alex Van Der Zwaan with charges of lying to federal prosecutors and deleting evidence of his contact with top Trump campaign staffer Rick Gates and an unnamed "Person A".

The attorney, Alex van der Zwaan, worked in London for the prominent NY law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.

The information claims Van Der Zwaan lied about his communications with "Person A" and with Rick Gates, who was indicted in the Mueller probe in October.

The charge against Zwaan and reports that Gates may plead guilty suggest "that Mueller is putting even more pressure against Manafort, which is interesting because Manafort is already buried in an indictment with very serious charges", Mariotti said. When questioned about his firm's work in 2012, Van Der Zwann misled investigators about his communications with Richard Gates. He is also the son-in-law of German Khan, a Ukrainian-Russian billionaire and businessman.

Van der Zwaan becomes the fourth guilty plea in the Mueller investigation after Trump campaign aide George Papadopoulos and former national security adviser Michael Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to investigators a year ago, and an online supplier of fake usernames pleaded guilty to identity fraud last week.

Khan and his partners are suing Buzzfeed News over its publication of a dossier of allegations about ties between Trump and Russian Federation. The two also failed to disclose lobbying work on behalf of then-Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych and then tried to hide that work as it came to light in August 2016, the US said.

He works for the NY law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom based in London.

Van Der Zwaan was interviewed by Mueller's team regarding his firm's work in 2012 with the Ukraine Ministry of Justice.

It is unclear what role van der Zwaan played in crafting the report. The lawyers, who appeared with van der Zwaan in court Tuesday, declined to comment.

Van der Zwaan spoke with the special counsel's office a second time in early December to confess to his inaccuracies and what he knew, according to prosecutors' statements in court and a plea agreement released Tuesday.

Craig couldn't immediately be reached for comment.

Ukrainian authorities have also been probing the Skadden report, as part of a corruption investigation into Yanukovych's government, the New York Times reports (paywall).

Gates met Manafort almost three decades ago while he was an intern at Black, Manafort, Stone, Kelly - one of the most powerful lobbying firms in DC.

In court documents in the Ukranian case, Manafort is identified as having facilitated the contract for the law firm. In a previous statement, Skadden officials said it had returned the balance of Ukraine's payment, which they said had been held in escrow for future work. But previous 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. Next year, the firm received $1 million from Ukraine, though no further work was done.

The information provided by the government says Van Der Zwaan's false statements were made in connection to his work as an attorney working for a law firm whose client was the Ukraine Ministry of Justice.

Yanukovych, a pro-Russian strongman from Ukraine's Party of Regions, hired Skadden to justify the proceedings against Tymoshenko - who was his political opponent - to the U.S. government.

Manafort worked with other firms as well as part of his consulting work for Yanukovych.

An attorney for a prominent law firm is pleading guilty to lying to federal authorities about his interactions with a former Trump campaign associate.

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