It's Russia Indictment O'Clock Again, Trump Tower Lady Lawyer Edition!
In Soviet Russia, government report clearing money-laundering oligarch WRITES YOU!
Get it? ... No? Okay, well keep that punchline in mind while we tell you a good joke about a bunch of thieving Russian oligarchs and their conniving lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya, who just got indicted in New York for obstruction of justice. Yep, the same lawyer who dangled those sexxxxy Hillary Clinton dirts in front of Dipshit Junior's dumb face at the infamous Trump Tower meeting. Heckuva coincidence, huh?
We know you love the Carrie Mathison Russia posts Evan does. But Yr FDF is more explain-it-to-me-like-I'm-five style. So let's break it down slow in eight easy steps. Cool?
Step 1: The Scam
In the lawless kleptocracy of 2000s post-Soviet Russia, "a criminal organization including corrupt government officials" came up with a scheme to steal the identities of unknowing companies, submit false tax returns claiming huge losses, cash the refund check, and launder the money right out of the country.
These criminals netted $230 million worth of rubles from their scam. But rubles are funny things. Their value is unstable, and sometimes you reach into your pocket and find that some oligarch bigger than you just made all of yours disappear. The object of the kleptocracy game is to turn them into nice, clean dollars, euros, or pounds. Or better yet, real estate in some place where it doesn't snow half the year!
So kleptocrats in this "Russian Treasury Fraud" wired almost two million dollars-worth of looted rubles through Cypriot shell companies until they came out the other end as beautiful Manhattan real estate. KA-CHING!
2. The Heroes
Back in Russia, a British investor named Bill Browder discovered the fraud and was then chased out of the country in 2005 by complicit government officials. His lawyer Sergei Magnitsky continued to work to unravel the case in Russia, was arrested, and ultimately tortured to death in prison by Russian government officials in 2009, to keep him from exposing the scheme. Because Vladimir Putin is not a nice man.
After that Bill Browder made it his life's work to lobby western governments to impose sanctions on Russian government officials complicit in money laundering. The US passed the Magnitsky Act in 2012, because Bill Browder is a goddamn hero.
Step 3: Putin Gets MAD
You think running a kleptocracy in a declining petro-state is EASY? He's got all these competing oligarchs, jostling for position and stealing everything in sight. Without a pressure release valve, they'd be shooting each other like a bunch of street gangsters. Luckily western money laundering statutes provide the perfect outlet, slowing down capital flight so the Russian economy doesn't crater, while still allowing every man to take out enough to park his wife and mistress and kids overseas.
And it was all going fine until that bastard Magnitsky started lobbying western governments to lock the Russians out completely. Those sanctions have knocked at least six percent off Russia's GDP since 2014, and made for some very pissed off oligarchs who can't get their money out of Russia. So the Russians enacted a ban on American adoptions of BOUNCY RUSSIAN BABIES, because who better to penalize than orphans rotting away in institutions, right? Then the Kremlin sent its goons out to persuade western governments that Sergei Magnitsky and Bill Browder were the real criminals.
Goons like ... Natalya Veselnitskaya. Of course.
Step 4: Don't Come To New York With Your Dirty Money
Back in 2014, year of Our Obama, when sainted Preet Bharara ran the Southern District of New York (SDNY), the office brought a money laundering case against Prevezon Holdings, the Cyprus-based company used by the above-mentioned Russian fraudsters to launder their money into Manhattan real estate. Prevezon was represented by you guessed it Natalya Veselnitskaya, the Kremlin's anti-sanctions mouthpiece. Girlfriend does get around.
(It's like "Days of Our Lives" up in here. In five minutes we're going to find out Stefano DiMera is Veselnitskaya's real father, but they've been living together as man and wife unknowingly since the tragic accident where she lost her memory and had her face reconfigured by a skilled plastic surgeon in Tangiers.)
Step 5: Evidence or 'Evidence'?
Seeking evidence, SDNY turned to Russian authorities for help with their case against Prevezon under the Mutual Legal Assistance Treaty (MLAT). They were shocked, SHOCKED to find that the Russian government found no crime by Prevezon's owners. In fact, Russian financial authorities turned over a report blaming Browder and Magnitsky for perpetrating the fraud.
Prevezon's lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya then touted the report as proof that her client Prevezon was pure as the driven snow and it was all the evil Englishman Browder's doing. But she left out one tiny detail ...
Step 6: IN SOVIET RUSSIA
In Soviet Russia, the defense lawyer for a bunch of crooked oligarchs gets to write the government report exonerating them herself.
And then she pretended to go through formal channels to force the Russian and American governments to disclose the report which she herself had written. (Later she would go on to describe herself as an "informant" for the Russian state prosecutor.)
Veselnitskaya's repeated statements to the court and the US government denying any prior knowledge of the report and citing it as exculpatory evidence, when she herself had participated in its fabrication, form the basis of the indictment filed on December 28 and unsealed this morning. She's charged with obstruction of justice in the Prevezon case. Because this ain't Russia -- at least not yet.
Step 7: Trump Tower Meeting
We've been over the details of the Trump Tower meeting about fifty times. You know about the failson and the failson-in-law getting offered dirt on Hillary Clinton exchange for BOUNCY RUSSIAN BABIES, and you know that's code for lifting the Magnitsky sanctions. You know that Veselnitskaya tried to frame Clinton for taking illegal foreign campaign donations from Bill Browder, wrapping the whole thing up in a nice, neat bow. But did you remember this note that Paul Manafort, the only sentient American in the room, took on his iPhone during the meeting?
Offshore - Cyprus.
Value in Cyprus as inter.
OH, HEY, WASN'T NATALYA VESELNITSKAYA REPRESENTING CYPRIOT COMPANY PREVEZON AT THE SAME TIME? SHE WAS. INDEED, THAT SIMPLE FACT FORMS THE ENTIRE BASIS FOR THE GOP'S ALTERNATE REALITY CONSPIRACY THEORY ABOUT HOW DEMOCRAT OPERATIVES SENT NATALYA VESELNITSKAYA INTO TRUMP TOWER THAT DAY TO FRAME POOR DONALD TRUMP JR., BECAUSE FUSION GPS WAS CONTRACTED BY PREVEZON'S LAWYERS TO DO OPPO RESEARCH ON BILL BROWDER, WHILE IT WAS ALSO CONTRACTED BY THE DEMOCRATS TO INVESTIGATE TRUMP'S TIES TO RUSSIA.
HUH THAT'S WEIRD.
Step 8: The Case Against Prevezon Disappears Like Magic
Remember Marc Kasowitz, Trump's allegedly drunken lawyer who also happens to represent Russia's Sberbank in a civil suit in New York? Right in the middle of the Prevezon prosecution, Preet Bharara got fired as US Attorney for SDNY, after Kasowitz told Trump, "This guy is going to get you." And then three months later, the Prevezon case just went away, settled by SDNY for less than $6 million, an amount referred to by Veseltnitskaya as "almost an apology from the government." After that, Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee sent a letter to Jeff Sessions asking if the DOJ "may have settled the case at a loss for the United States in order to obscure the underlying facts" of a quid pro quo deal hatched at the Trump Tower meeting with Prevezon's lawyer. We're going to assume that Sessions told Jerry Nadler to pound sand in July of 2017. And we're going to further assume that Jerry Nadler, who now chairs the Judiciary Committee and has subpoena power, hasn't forgotten about it.
And while we're on the subject, the Veselnitskaya indictment was signed personally by Geoffrey Berman, who became US Attorney for SDNY in 2018. If Jeff Sessions ever did put political pressure on SDNY to drop indictments against thieving Russians, those days are long over.
AND .... ?
And the noose is tightening around the Trump crime family. Dirty Russians in their orbit are getting arrested for money laundering and obstruction of justice. The prosecutions have spread far beyond the special counsel's office, and nobody, not that idiot Matt Whitaker and not even a competent villain like Bill Barr, can make it stop. And if they try, Democrats in the House will nail them to the wall.
And 2019 is going to be a terrible, wonderful year!
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Liz Dye lives in Baltimore with her wonderful husband and a houseful of teenagers. When she isn't being mad about a thing on the internet, she's hiding in plain sight in the carpool line. She's the one wearing yoga pants glaring at her phone.