Natalya Veselnitskaya, Russian attorney at Trump Tower meeting, charged with obstruction of justice in unrelated money laundering case

  • Natalya Veselnitskaya, the Russian attorney who attended a controversial meeting at Trump Tower with President Donald Trump's son, son-in-law and campaign chief in 2016, has been criminally charged with obstruction of justice.
  • Veselnitskaya, who is not in custody, is named in an indictment unsealed in federal court in New York, where she is accused of filing a misleading document related to the money laundering case.
  • The indictment is not related to her meeting at Trump Tower, at which people close to Trump expected to receive damaging information about his election foe, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.
A picture taken on November 8, 2016 shows Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya speaking during an interview in Moscow.
Yuri Martyanov | AFP | Getty Images
A picture taken on November 8, 2016 shows Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya speaking during an interview in Moscow.

Natalya Veselnitskaya, the Russian attorney who attended a controversial meeting at Trump Tower with President Donald Trump's son, son-in-law and campaign chief in 2016, has been criminally charged with obstruction of justice in connection with an unrelated civil money laundering and forfeiture case.

Veselnitskaya, 43, is accused in an indictment unsealed Tuesday in federal court in New York City of filing an "intentionally misleading" document related to the money laundering case involving corrupt Russian government officials, prosecutors said.

The Russian national is not in custody, and is now a "wanted person," an FBI official said.

The indictment does not stem from Veselnitskaya's meeting at Trump Tower, where people close to Trump expected her to give them damaging information about Trump's election foe, Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton.

But that meeting remains a subject of investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller, who is probing Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election and possible collusion by the Trump campaign.

And an issue that Veselnitskaya raised at the Trump Tower meeting is closely related to the scheme that led to the civil case, U.S. vs. Prevezon Holdings, in which she is accused of acting criminally as a lawyer.

In that civil case, Veselnitskaya was representing defendants accused of an "elaborate" $230 million tax refund fraud scheme, according to authorities.

The federal government filed the case in 2013 in an effort to recover several million dollars worth of property, primarily comprised of New York real estate, which was allegedly obtained to launder a portion of the money swindled in the tax refund scheme.

That scheme was uncovered by a Russian accountant named Sergei Magnitsky, who was arrested after helping report the fraud to Russian authorities.

Magnitsky's death in custody led to passage of a 2012 U.S. law, the Magnitsky Act, which imposes sanctions on Russians believed to be responsible for his death.

At the Trump Tower meeting, Veselnitskaya urged Trump campaign officials to undo the Magnitsky Act sanctions.

In the Prevezon case, she submitted a declaration that purported to have "been independently drafted by the Russian government," and which supposedly exonerated her clients, prosecutors said.

But Veselnitskaya is accused of hiding from the judge in the case that she had "participated in drafting those supposed exculpatory findings in secret cooperation with a senior Russian prosecutor," according to federal prosecutors.

Veselnitskaya attended a court hearing for an appeal of the money laundering case on the same day, June 9, 2016, that she went to Trump Tower on Fifth Avenue in New York for the sit-down with people close to Trump.

Trump's son, Donald Trump Jr., has said that he took the meeting with Veselnitskaya after being told that she was willing to share dirt on Clinton.

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Other attendees of the meeting were the president's son-in-law, Jared Kushner, and the then-chairman of Trump's campaign, Paul Manafort.

Trump Jr. has said that Veselnitskaya "stated that she had information that individuals connected to Russia were funding the Democratic National Committee and supporting Ms. Clinton."

"Her statements were vague, ambiguous and made no sense. No details or supporting information was provided or even offered. It quickly became clear that she had no meaningful information," Trump Jr. has said.

"She then changed subjects and began discussing the adoption of Russian children and mentioned the Magnitsky Act. It became clear to me that this was the true agenda all along and that the claims of potentially helpful information were a pretext for the meeting."

Read the indictment against Natalya Veselnitskaya: