Dutch Lawyer First to be Sentenced in Russia Probe


A Dutch lawyer is the first person to be sentenced in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Attorney Alex van der Zwaan has been sentenced to thirty days in prison and was ordered to pay $20,000 in fines. Van der Zwaan pleaded guilty in February to lying to the FBI.

Van Der Zwaan helped Ukraine’s Justice Ministry prepare a report in 2012 on the trial of Ukrainian politician Yulia Tymoshenko. Tymoshenko had been the main political rival of pro-Russian Ukrainian dictator Victor Yanukovych. The trial was largely seen as persecution of Tymoshenko by Yanukovych as she was calling for a movement in the country towards the EU and away from Russian influence.

Van Der Zwaan was working for a London law firm that helped prepare that report, which was designed to counter international criticism of Tymoshenko’s trial.

Van Der Zwaan is a longtime associate of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and Trump campaign adviser Rick Gates and was in contact with them throughout the 2016 election. He lied to the FBI last year about those communications. Both Gates and Manafort, have been indicted by Robert Mueller for allegedly laundering millions of dollars received for their lobbying efforts on behalf of a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party, the same party as Yanukovych’s, years before their association with Donald Trump, as well as lying to the FBI.

According February’s charges, Van Der Zwaan lied to investigators when he told them that his last communication with Rick Gates was in August of 2016. According to the charges, Van Der Zwaan had spoken to Gates, and another individual, identified only as “Person A,” in September of 2016. The charges also allege that Van Der Zwaan discussed the Tymoshenko report with Gates and “Person A,” recorded the calls, but then deleted or did not otherwise produce emails about the conversations between he and “Person A” had after Mueller’s team asked him for them.

“Person A,” it is now being alleged, is a former member of the GRU, Russia’s military intelligence service. According to investigators Gates has admitted knowing the individual was a former member of the Russian military intelligence service as he was interacting with him. That individual is widely reported to be Russian businessman Konstantin Kilimnik.

Kilimnik has denied any role with Russian intelligence services.

In court documents prosecutor Andrew Weissman alleges that van der Zwaan is in “an unusual position of having information related” to the Russia investigation that “is not widely known — including information that he knows first-hand due to his role in the conduct the Office is investigating.”

In addition to working with Manafort and Gates for many years and interacting with them throughout the campaign, van der Zwaan is also the son-in-law of German Khan, a Russian billionaire and partner in Alfa Group, a company that owns stakes in Alfa Bank, one of Russia’s largest banks.

In 2016 the FBI looked into the suspicious activity of a computer server at Alfa Bank. The server repeatedly looked up contact information for a server being used by the Trump organization, accounting for roughly 80% of all inquiries about the Trump machine. The FBI ultimately ruled that there could be an innocent explanation for the activity, such as marketing email or spam activity.

Photo by Tim Evanson via Flickr