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Lawyer charged with lying to investigators amid Russia probe

Alex van der Zwaan is accused of lying to investigators about Rick Gates, a business associate of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

The special counsel probing Russian interference in the 2016 US election has charged an attorney with lying to federal investigators about his interactions with a former Trump campaign official.

A document filed in federal court in Washington accuses Alex van der Zwaan of lying to investigators about his interactions with Rick Gates, a longtime business associate of President Donald Trump’s former campaign chair Paul Manafort.

Both Gates and Manafort were indicted last year on charges of conspiracy to launder money and acting as unregistered foreign agents.

The plea hearing comes on the heels of an extraordinary indictment from Mr Mueller last week that charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian companies in a hidden social media effort to meddle in the 2016 presidential election by denigrating Democrat Hillary Clinton and boosting the chances of Mr Trump.

The single-count information against van der Zwaan was filed ahead of a plea hearing scheduled for later on Tuesday.

The charge stems from a part of the special counsel’s investigation into Manafort and Gates, who are accused of directing a covert Washington lobbying campaign on behalf of pro-Russian Ukrainian interests.

According to the court filing, prosecutors said van der Zwaan lied to federal investigators about his role in the production of a report on the trial of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

She is a political foe of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, whose political party was a client of Gates and Manafort.

In the charging document, van der Zwaan is accused of lying during an interview with prosecutors and FBI agents on November 3 2017.

The document accuses him of lying about the timing of his last communication with Gates and an unidentified person described as “Person A”.

It also accuses him of deleting emails sought by the special counsel’s office and lying about a phone call he surreptitiously recorded in September 2016 with Gates and Person A regarding the Tymoshenko report.

The report was cited in the 12-count indictment against Manafort and Gates.

It accuses the two men of acting as unregistered lobbyists in connection with the rollout of the report, which was commissioned by the Ukrainian government.

According to the indictment, Manafort and Gates “used one of their offshore accounts to funnel four million dollars to pay secretly for the report”.

The report was authored by Washington law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom, known as Skadden Arps.

Van der Zwaan’s now-defunct LinkedIn page lists him as an associate in the London office of the prominent law firm.

On Tuesday, Skadden Arps released a statement saying it had fired van der Zwaan last year. The firm said it “has been co-operating with authorities in connection with this matter”.

It did not say what led to the firing. The charging document notes the emails van der Zwaan is accused of deleting and withholding from the special counsel’s office were also sought by the law firm, which is referred to as “Law Firm A”.

Last year, van der Zwaan married the daughter of Ukrainian-Russian billionaire German Khan, according to the Russian editions of Forbes and Tatler magazines.

The lavish wedding to his daughter, Eva, was held at Luton Hoo, a historic mansion-turned golf hotel in Bedfordshire.

The three-day event included a Russian party complete with a Cossack choir and guests dressed in Russian folk costumes, according to the magazines.

Mr Khan, who was born in Kiev, shares control of Russia’s biggest financial and industrial investment conglomerate, Alfa Group, with fellow billionaires Mikhail Fridman and Alexei Kuzmichev.

Forbes estimates he is worth 10 billion US dollars (£7.15 billion).

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