- Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office charged Alex van der Zwaan, a wealthy and connected Russian lawyer, with making false statements to the FBI.
- Van der Zwaan is accused of misleading investigators about his work for a law firm that was employed by the Ukraine Ministry of Justice to put together a report about the trial of Ukrainian politician Yulia Tymoshenko.
- The firm was first hired by former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russian strongman with ties to President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman, Paul Manafort, and Tymoshenko’s political opponent during the country’s 2010 elections.
Special counsel Robert Mueller’s office has charged a wealthy Russian lawyer with making false statements to the FBI, according to a court filing unsealed on Tuesday.
Alex van der Zwaan, the lawyer, is well-connected and represents the interests of a number of Russian oligarchs. He is also the son-in-law of German Khan, a Ukrainian-Russian billionaire and businessman.
Van der Zwaan was charged with “willfully and knowingly” making “false, fictitious, and fraudulent statements and representations” to federal investigators about his work for the law firm Skadden, Arps, Meagher, & Flom LLP and Associates in 2012. The firm was employed by the Ukraine Ministry of Justice to compile a report about the trial of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
Tymoshenko was jailed in 2011 after being convicted by the Ukrainian government of abuse of power. Tymoshenko’s trial and subsequent conviction were criticized by human-rights groups and deemed politically motivated by the US, the UK, German, Italy, Spain, and other European countries.
Skadden was roped into the controversy when it emerged that Ukraine’s former Justice Minister, Oleksandr Lavrynovych, embezzled over $1 million in order to pay the law firm. Viktor Yanukovych, the former Ukrainian president and pro-Russian strongman, ordered the government to hire Skadden following the proceedings against Tymoshenko, who was his political opponent during the country’s 2010 election. After being pressured by US and Ukrainian prosecutors, Skadden refunded about half the amount it was paid to the Ukrainian government. Mueller’s focus on the Skadden case was first reported last September.
Tuesday’s filing also mentions Rick Gates, the former deputy manager of President Donald Trump’s campaign.
According to the document, Van der Zwaan misled FBI investigators about his last communication with Gates, which took place in mid-August 2016 and consisted of “an innocuous text message.”
Van der Zwaan is also accused of lying to investigators about why he did not turn over a September 2016 email between himself and another individual referred to in the charge as “Person A” to Mueller’s office.
Per the court filing, van der Zwaan not only spoke to both Gates and “Person A” about Skadden’s report on Tymoshenko’s trial, but also destroyed evidence Mueller’s office was seeking, including the September 2016 email.
Van der Zwaan’s plea hearing is scheduled for Tuesday afternoon. It comes as Gates is also reportedly in the final stages of negotiating a plea deal with Mueller and agreeing to testify against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.
This is a developing story.