Parker of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of NY unsealed a December 20 indictment charging Natalia Veselnitskaya, the Russian lawyer who attended the 2016 Trump Tower meeting, with one count of obstruction of justice in an unrelated civil proceeding connected to a money-laundering case.
The indictment charges that after the Justice Department asked the Russian government to assist its investigation, the Russian government refused, responding with a letter that purported to exonerate Russian officials and the firm's personnel. Veselnitskaya, who became a focal point of the investigation into whether there was collusion between Russians and U.S. President Donald Trump's election campaign, was charged with obstruction of justice on Tuesday in an unrelated case. The suit does not touch on the Trump Tower meeting or the purported information on Trump's then-opponent, Hillary Clinton, that was alleged to have been offered to the campaign. It is unlikely she will see a USA courtroom because the US does not have an extradition treaty with Russian Federation.
A Russian citizen, Veselnitskaya is believed to be in Russia, and is unlikely to be turned over to USA authorities for prosecution.
Her work on that case attracted little attention at the time, but her role in the Trump Tower meeting made her the subject of intense investigative interest in the United States, as Mueller's team has sought to determine whether that meeting was part of any broader conspiracy by Trump associates to seek the Kremlin's help in defeating Clinton.
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The charge was, at least on the surface, unrelated to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into alleged collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian Federation in the 2016 election.
Federal prosecutors in NY said they were not aware of any defense attorney retained by Veselnitskaya, and ABC News requests for comment from her Russian office were not immediately returned.
A spokesman for Mr Mueller declined to comment on the charge against Ms Veselnitskaya.
Veselnitskaya, an attorney based in Russian Federation, was retained to assist the defendants. She later concealed the fact from prosecutors and the judge in the NY case and "obstructed the civil proceeding in the Prevezon" case, prosecutors said.
All this, US officials now allege, was a ruse.
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On the same day as the Trump Tower meeting, Veselnitskaya attended oral arguments at the 2nd US Circuit Court of Appeals in the US government's forfeiture case against a Russian-controlled real estate holding company Prevezon Holdings Ltd, which US prosecutors accused of laundering some of the proceeds of a $US230 million Russian tax fraud scheme.
In 2013, US prosecutors brought a civil lawsuit against the company that sought to recover millions of dollars worth of NY real estate and other property on the grounds that it was tainted by money laundering.
It alleges that Veselnitskaya presented the court with exculpatory evidence that she said were findings by the Russian government.
In May 2017, just a few months after Trump became president, the newly promoted NY district attorney suddenly settled with Prevezon for $6 million, days before the trial opened. A federal judge ordered the firm last February to pay US$6 million to the USA government.
Veselnitskaya, who has deep experience in Russian political and legal matters, had been brought on by Prevezon to fight the lawsuit, though she also lobbied more broadly against the political outgrowths of the allegations against the company.
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U.S. media report that the lawyer is thought to now be in Russian Federation.