The charges in the United States in obstructing justice, the background of this high-profile case, the role of Mikhail Khodorkovsky in it and the prospects for her participation in the case are told in an interview by lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya.
QUESTION: What’s the point of the charges against you?
The point is not at all about the essence of the charge, but about who is the charger. His name is Paul Monteleoni.
AUSA Monteleoni used to run my client’s case, for three years amending the complaint filed by the former US Attorney Mr. Bharara, but eventually dropped it. Like nobody else he knows about my immersion in the case, in its nuances and details. He and his team of assistants made no secret of their persistent irritation from my presence in the proceedings and participation in the depositions of all their so-called witnesses and experts on Russia. I consider these charges personal vendetta by the alliance of William Browder and Monteleoni. AUSA has practically become a private lawyer of an individual repeatedly convicted of tax frauds and other economic crimes, Mr. Browder, using the mechanisms of the US Attorney’s Office to square personal accounts. But apparently the loss turned out so painful for him that he also involves the judicial power into his revenge. The entire charge against me is nothing but propensity evidence in sheep’s clothing.
The case held by Monteleoni in the same District was based solely on unsubstantiated claims by Browder who couldn’t produce a single proof of his story in his two depositions, which he’s been feeding to the US and to European countries for almost nine years. It’s like a story about “the house that Jack built”: the US Congress repeated Browder’s words in the Magnitsky Act without any verification, then Andreas Gross in his report to the PACE which passed a similar resolution. This had all been supported by a non-existent report of the Human Rights Council in Russia. As a result, these “proofs” of Browder’s fake story of money embezzlement from the Russian budget allegedly stolen by an unknown Russian government organization, allegedly exposed by Browder’s “lawyer” Magnitsky upon his instructions, for which he was arrested, beaten to death, and posthumously charged – were reasonably challenged by our side. As a result, all of the above records were ruled out of the case either by the US Attorney himself, or by the Court’s decision, pursuant to the motions filed by the Russian side.
I am sure Monteleoni decided to drop the case after 3.5 years because he realized how great the chances were to lose this case, despite the anti-Russian sentiments in NY in 2017. Like no one else he realized that Browder’s legend laid down in the form of a complaint about the non-existent investigation by the non-existent lawyer Magnitsky about the theft of three Russian companies from the Hermitage Fund, about the revenge of the Russian authorities against him and Magnitsky who had “exposed the scam” would be turned inside out before the jurors. When it became clear that by his active efforts in the interests of real criminals he was about to throw discredit on the Magnitsky Act, in April 2017 Monteleoni officially backed off from using it in our case. As for the PACE resolution, the Hon. William H. Pauley III blew it to smithereens, having declared the underlying Gross’ report as unreliable, scandalous, and PACE’s work on its approval to be encouraged by Browder. If Monteleoni hadn’t withdrawn from referring to the Magnitsky Act, it is quite possible that this document would have shared the same destiny.
QUESTION: How come they decided to charge you with obstruction of justice in the US a few years later?
In my case the same AUSA employs the same method – he still acts based on insinuations and context distortion. His behavior model is similar, but has acquired even more unreasonable intolerance. Monteleoni can’t hold something against the US lawyers; he just won’t get any support. And a Russian lawyer is a totally different story, since she knows too much, and extensive negative publicity has been created about her in the United States over the last year, and she will obviously not come to the US. Such actions are unbefitting either the US Attorney, or a man.
The use of the judicial authorities to pursue his private goals by Browder, the abuse of one’s official powers (by some officials from the US Attorney’s Office and the US Congress) – this is the real obstruction of justice. That was exactly what I said first when I learned about that ridiculous and iniquitous indictment.
I am a trial lawyer to the core and I have devoted most of my professional life to the judicial system. I have always considered and still consider it the highest honor and a gift of fate to be able to work in a US court, to see with my own eyes how the court evaluates evidence, to work with prominent American lawyers. This was an incredible experience. The very idea of submitting an unreliable statement to the court is blasphemous for me. I am a daughter and a granddaughter of military pilots, and therefore such words as honor and conscience are more than just words to me. I regard such accusations as a personal insult.
QUESTION: How can you comment on the content of the correspondence referred to in the indictment?
I would be happy to comment if there was anything written in it. The indictment is a wish wash, there are no details identifying me and some “high-ranking prosecutor”. I actively collaborated with the General Prosecutor’s Office of the Russian Federation which has supported the public prosecution of Browder since 2013. And the fact that we have identical positions concerning Browder’s false story can neither provide evidence of any conspiracy, nor constitute any wrongdoing.
If we just speculate what exactly it can all be about, we can assume that the charges are based on the documents received by Mikhail Khodorkovsky from an unknown source. Back in April 2018, he said on an American TV channel that he had received data from some email resources hacked by unidentified individuals. The reporter who showed them to me had no brass to broadcast my entire unedited interview, but preferred to make some cuts, and now he does interviews at every corner infatuated with self-admiration. If it’s all about these documents, I hope to live to learn the court’s decision on this case.
Through the example of Browder’s case in the US one can understand that intervening in the work of the prosecutor’s office, dictating charges to be passed off as the results of a “verified thorough investigation” is their behavior pattern, at least in Prevezon case. We have repeatedly claimed this in court: “In the course of discovery, the story about the Russian Treasury fraud was proved to be unreliable. It was fabricated and deftly sold by William F. Browder to politicians in this country and abroad to thwart his arrest on charges of tax fraud in Russia. This publicly communicated information was completely swallowed up by the Government, which included it in its complaint without an investigation, which, as described by this Court, “causes concern.”
QUESTION: What results do you expect?
From the US judicial system I expect impartiality, legality, as I had witnessed in Prevezon case. And from the jurors, US citizens, I expect loyalty to the American values and the high standard of the presumption of innocence. Despite the fact that the charge itself is a wish wash, and I have nothing to comment on since there is no details in it that could be analyzed, I personally observed what the actual US legal proceedings are. We will fight.
QUESTION: Your case is handled by the Chief Judge for SDNY who was appointed by Bill Clinton. Don’t you find any trick here? How come it is your case, the person who allegedly tried to pass on compromising stuff about Hillary Clinton, which has grabbed the headlines of all the US tabloids for the last year and a half ended up with the Chief Judge? Do you still believe in the American justice?
I do not know how cases are assigned in the Southern District, and I can’t comment on this. But the Chief Judge is a Judge in the first place. And it is a very high standard. Of course, one should not idealize the US judicial system. It has its flaws. First and foremost, it is the cost of legal services, since there is no guarantee that I will be able to represent myself in the proceedings. Political preferences and the Judge’s personal attitude also play an important role. As you have rightly noted, thanks to Browder’s efforts over the last year and a half, such an elaborate net of lies has been created against me in the US that I simply can’t afford the risk of being taken hostage. Another problem is to remotely find a lawyer who you can entrust your fate to. And I’m making this choice now not only for myself, but also for my family, my four children and their future.
QUESTION: What, in your opinion, does the US Attorney pursue in this case? Is it somehow connected with the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller?
Let me begin with the first part – deprive me of the opportunity to work as a lawyer, and specifically against a transnational group of fraudsters – Hermitage Capital Management, Bill Browder and his accomplices. I’m currently handling two more cases against them in Europe. We must not forget that in the United States this case today does not look as unambiguous as two years ago: too many people began to wonder about Browder’s identity, his patrons, the reasons why the US Congress passed the first sanction law unleashing a new Cold War between our countries, without even a semblance of verification. And given the escalation of anti-Russian sentiments in the United States – to try to cancel closure of the case against my client.
Regarding the second part of your question, I don’t know if there was any exchange between the federal district and the special counsel, but it is obvious that Special Counsel Mueller has absolutely no interest either in me, or in my story, unless I am in his jurisdiction, even though, based on some charges he brought, I am one of the key figures in the investigation. I have repeatedly spoken through the media and in my testimony before the US Congress – Mr. Mueller, please, ask me any questions, come to Moscow, you would definitely not be in danger here. Since no reaction followed, and no actual achievements have been produced in finding facts about Russian interference in the US electoral process, it is not unthinkable there are concerted actions. Try to lure me to the United States with a ridiculous charge, which will obviously be professionally offensive for me, and then, having me isolated, try to get some confessions from me, that would be quite a workable scheme. But this is the realm of speculations. What is obvious to me is that all this is personal vendetta of Mr. Monteleoni, who put his entire career in service of a fugitive criminal and manipulator, William Browder, but has been a fiasco for the time being.