On Oct. 27, 2017, prosecutors accused Manafort and Gates of hiding their lobbying work in Ukraine and laundering millions of dollars. The two also failed to disclose lobbying work on behalf of then-Ukraine President Viktor Yanukovych and then tried to conceal that work as it came to light in August 2016, the U.S. said. Manafort left the Trump presidential campaign that month.
A month after Manafort’s departure, van der Zwaan communicated about the report with Gates and a second unidentified person, prosecutors said on Tuesday, and then lied about it when the FBI and Mueller’s office later asked about the exchanges.
Mueller, in his probe of Russian collusion in the 2016 presidential election, accused 13 Russians on Feb. 16 of a sophisticated disinformation campaign that targeted U.S. voters. Three others, including former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, have pleaded guilty and are cooperating.
Van der Zwaan was an associate in the London office of Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom. The information doesn’t say whether he is cooperating with prosecutors or why he allegedly lied to the government.
Last year, van der Zwaan married the daughter of Russian oligarch German Khan, according to the London Tatler. Khan is a shareholder of Alfa Group, a Russian banking and investment concern, and a board member at LetterOne Holdings, the investment vehicle set up by the founders of Alfa Group. A spokesman for Khan didn’t immediately provide a comment.
[Van Der Zwaan is also married to Eva Khan, the daughter of Russian oligarch German Khan, who last year sued the media outlet BuzzFeed for libel for publishing the "Trump Dossier."]
Neither van der Zwaan nor his lawyer immediately responded to calls and emails seeking comment.
In a statement, Skadden said: "The firm terminated its employment of Alex van der Zwaan in 2017 and has been cooperating with authorities in connection with this matter."
The case against van der Zwaan shows that Mueller is proceeding methodically and increasing pressure on key witnesses, Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Connecticut Democrat, said in a statement. The case “sends a signal to both Paul Manafort and Rick Gates: cooperate or risk greater trouble in the future.”
Van der Zwaan was one of the lawyers who worked on the 2012 report, commissioned by the government of Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, which largely defended the prosecution and conviction of the country’s former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko. The report defied the view held by the U.S. and the European Union that the case against her was politically motivated.
Van der Zwaan is accused of misleading investigators about the last time he talked with Gates when he was questioned Nov. 3, 2017, by U.S. authorities regarding the work. He told investigators that his last contact with Gates was an innocuous text message in mid-August 2016, when they actually spoke the following month about the Tymoshenko report in a call the lawyer secretly recorded, the information says.
Prosecutors say van der Zwaan lied about his talks with someone else, who they identified only as Person A. The lawyer told investigators he last spoke with Person A in 2014, when in fact they spoke in September 2016 during the secretly recorded call with Gates.
Van der Zwaan also deleted and failed to produce emails sought by the special counsel and a law firm, prosecutors said.
Skadden’s $12,000 fee for its 2012 report on Tymoshenko was modest, just below the amount that required public bidding. The following year, with no further work done, Ukraine sent Skadden $1 million.
After the pro-Russian government was run out of town in 2014, the new authorities began investigating misuse of funds by the Yanukovych government.
The Ukrainians asked the U.S. Justice Department for help in questioning Manafort and Skadden lawyers who worked on the report. Among those the Ukrainians sought to interview was van der Zwaan, a Russian speaker.
The Justice Department asked Skadden for information and documents related to its work for the Yanukovych government, the New York Times reported in September. In a previous statement, Skadden officials said it had returned the balance of Ukraine’s payment, which they said had been held in escrow for future work. Ukrainian prosecutors confirmed that Skadden refunded $567,000 to Ukraine, saying it had been overpaid.
Manafort was involved in recruiting Skadden to prepare the report on behalf of Ukraine, according to documents reviewed by Bloomberg News. The Skadden team was headed by Gregory Craig, a partner who had worked as President Barack Obama’s White House counsel from 2009 to 2010 and for President Bill Clinton during his impeachment.
Craig couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.
Manafort and Gates are accused of failing to register as agents in the U.S. for political consulting they did in Ukraine for pro-Russian politicians. Manafort is accused of laundering money to buy houses, cars, clothes and landscaping services. Both men have pleaded not guilty.
The indictment also alleges that offshore accounts associated with Manafort and Gates paid more than $2 million between 2012 and 2014 to two companies that lobbied members of Congress and their staffs about Ukraine sanctions and “the propriety of imprisoning his presidential rival.”
The case is U.S. v. van der Zwaan, 18-cr-31, U.S. District Court, District of Columbia (Washington).
— With assistance by Andrew M Harris, and Greg Farrell
Updated | Alex van der Zwaan, a lawyer who once helped prepare a report for the Ukrainian government, pleaded guilty on Tuesday to lying to federal agents as part of Special Counsel Robert Mueller's probe into Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
Documents charging van der Zwaan are dated February 16 [14Feb2018] and were filed publicly Tuesday morning. His sentencing is scheduled for April 3, 2018.
Van der Zwaan, 33, is a Dutch lawyer who helped prepare a report for the Ukrainian Ministry of Justice on ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko in 2012, according to court documents. He worked at the time for Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, a high-profile company with 22 offices and more than 1,700 attorneys.
The firm said Tuesday that it fired van der Zwaan last year and has been cooperating with authorities, according to The Washington Post. He published a paper for the firm as recently as April 2017.
A 2012 Skadden report on the Tymoshenko case, available on a Ukrainian government website, described van der Zwaan as a “participating attorney” who focused on “cross-border transactions and disputes covering various industries and sectors.” The report said he was fluent in Russian. (The cached version of his Skadden biography said he also speaks Dutch, English and French.)
Around September 2017, the Department of Justice requested information and documents from Skadden related to the work it did on behalf of Viktor Yanukovych, the former president of Ukraine whose political party is considered pro-Russia, The New York Times reported at the time. Paul Manafort, the former Trump campaign chairman who is facing charges in the Mueller probe, did work for Yanukovych’s party.
Van der Zwaan also has family ties to the Russian elite: His father-in-law is German Khan, who Forbes ranks at No. 11 on its list of billionaires in Russia. Khan is worth around $10 billion and made his money from oil, banking and telecommunications, according to Forbes.
Mueller’s team questioned van der Zwaan last November as part of its investigation into Manafort and former Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates. During that interview, he lied about when he was last in contact with Gates and with someone in Ukraine who prosecutors refer to as “Person A,” according to the court filings. He also falsely claimed to not know why his law firm had not provided to the special counsel a certain email between him and “Person A.”
Gates and Manafort have pleaded not guilty to charges including money laundering. Gates is expected to change his plea to guilty in the coming days, but Manafort is fighting the charges and has filed a lawsuit against Mueller, the Justice Department and Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein.
Unlike in some of the other Mueller plea agreements, the one for van der Zwaan does not include a cooperation stipulation. But that does not mean he is not cooperating. Prosecutors often decide to keep such agreements under seal, according to Patrick Cotter, a former federal prosecutor. When it does appear in a plea agreement, “it’s there because the prosecutor wants it to be there,” Cotter previously told Newsweek, likely as “a way of sending a message to other potential people that you want to interview.”
Van der Zwaan was charged the same day that Mueller’s team announced an indictment against 13 Russian individuals and three Russian companies associated with the Internet Research Agency, a troll operation. That day, the special counsel’s team also announced a guilty plea from Richard Pinedo, a California man who sold bank account numbers to Russian entities.
This article has been updated to include additional biographical information about Alex van der Zwaan. It was later updated again to include information from his guilty plea.
The son-in-law of a Russian oligarch pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying to investigators working for special counsel Robert Mueller’s office.
Alex Van Der Zwaan, a London-based attorney and the son-in-law of Russian oligarch German Khan, admitted to making false statements to Mueller’s team about his work involving the Ukrainian government.
Van Der Zwaan, who worked for a law firm engaged by the Ukraine ministry of justice in 2012, lied to investigators about contacts with former Trump campaign aide Rick Gates and a person referred to only as “Person A” in court documents.
Gates, already facing a slew of charges from Mueller’s office, is reportedly expected to accept a plea deal this week and has been working with prosecutors.
Van Der Zwaan informed investigators about an August 2016 text exchange with Gates, but lied about contacts with the other unnamed person and allegedly “deleted and otherwise did not produce emails” sought by prosecutors and an unnamed law firm, according to the documents.
Van Der Zwaan failed to tell Mueller’s team that he spoke with both Gates and “Person A” in September of the same year and recorded the phone conversations. The Russia-linked attorney will at the very minimum face the risk of being deported from the U.S., according to his plea agreement.
Gates, 45, and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort are both facing charges of money laundering, engaging in illegal transactions in Ukraine and serving as unregistered agents for the country.
Mueller’s office, tasked with investigating Russian election interference and possible ties to the Trump campaign, charged more than a dozen Russian nationals with an elaborate plot to sow political discord and disrupt the 2016 election on Friday.
A federal grand jury indicted 13 Russians and three Kremlin-linked companies, and charged them with a years-long multi-million dollar effort to meddle in the U.S. election and help President Trump win the White House.
Van Der Zwaan, a former associate in the London office of Skadden, Arps, Slate Meagher & Flom, is married to the daughter of German Khan, a Russian billionaire named in the infamous Steele dossier.
The intelligence report compiled by former British spy Christopher Steele contains salacious allegations against Trump and details connections between his close associates and Russians.
Khan and two other Moscow-based investors sued Fusion GPS, the company that hired Steele, for libel last year, alleging their reputations were unfairly sullied by the document. The trio also sued Buzzfeed over its publication of the dossier.Khan and the others have ties to Alfa Bank, a financial institution that Steele’s sources claim helped fund Russian efforts to influence the 2016 election.