By Steve Neavling
A prominent, Russian-connected attorney pleaded guilty Tuesday to misleading the FBI about his work with President Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, marking the third conviction so far in the special counsel investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Alex Van der Zwaan is accused of lying to federal investigators about communications he had with Rick Gates, a longtime business partner of Manafort and a former Trump campaign aide.
Prosecutors say Van der Zwaan made false statements about his work for a law firm accused of whitewashing abuses by the pro-Russian, former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who is accused of an $18 million money laundering scheme involving Manafort.
The scheme is part of the criminal case against Manafort and Gates, who were both indicted in October on 12 counts involving money laundering, conspiracy against the U.S. and tax fraud. They pleaded not guilty.
Van der Zwaan, the son-in-law of Russian oligarch German Khan, worked in London for the prominent New York law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom.
After pleading guilty, he admitted to lying to investigators about past communications with Gates and someone identified as “Personal A.”
The case centered around Van der Zwaan’s work for Ukraine’s Ministry of Justice, which hired him to put together a report about the trial of Tymoshenko.
BuzzFeed News reported Monday that Tymoshenko was the focus of an FBI investigation as part of a failed operation to tackle international kleptocracy in 2014 and 2015. During the probe, investigators identified $40 million in “suspicious transactions” to and from Manafort’s companies.
But the under-resourced task force dropped the investigation and never charged Manafort or Tymoshenko, according to current and former law enforcement officials who worked on the case.
Gates is expected to plead guilty as early as this week to money laundering as part of a deal with prosecutors to testify against Manafort, who continues to maintain his innocence.