Alex van der Zwaan, the Dutch son-in-law of one of Russia’s richest men, pleaded guilty in federal court to making false statements in special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation of the alleged Russian interference in 2016 U.S. presidential election.
Van der Zwaan was charged with lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation about his contacts with Rick Gates, who was a top official on President Donald Trump’s campaign. Gates is also a longtime business partner of former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, The Washington Post reports.
According to the newspaper, van der Zwaan, the son-in-law of German Khan, worked for the law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, which worked with Manafort and Gates when they served as political consultants in Ukraine. Khan is a billionaire who owns Alfa Group, the biggest Russian financial and industrial investment group.
Van der Zwaan pleaded guilty on Tuesday to one count of making a false statement to investigators and faces a recommended sentence ranging from zero to six months in prison when he is sentenced April 3.
A person familiar with the situation said that meanwhile, Gates was in plea negotiations with Mueller, who has charged Manafort and Gates with conspiracy, fraud and money-laundering charges related to lobbying work they did for a Russian-friendly political party in Ukraine and former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych. With van der Zwaan, Mueller’s sprawling probe has now netted four guilty pleas, including from former national security adviser Michael Flynn, The Post reminds. Van der Zwaan’s case is also connected with Ukraine.
According to prosecutors, van der Zwaan falsely told federal investigators that his last communication with Gates was in mid-August 2016 through innocuous text message, but prosecutors said that van der Zwaan spoke to Gates and another person in September 2016 using encrypted communications.
The unnamed person was a longtime business associate of Manafort who was principally based in Ukraine at the time and spoke to van der Zwaan in Russian. Van der Zwaan also deleted emails and one document that he deleted was an email requesting that he uses encrypted communications.
Van der Zwaan communicated with Gates shortly after Manafort resigned from Trump’s campaign. The subject of the 2016 recorded phone call, prosecutors said, was a 2012 report prepared by van der Zwaan’s law firm about the jailing of former Ukrainian prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.
The report was controversial partly because of the conclusions regarding the jailing of Tymoshenko that seemed to contradict the international community’s conclusion that the former Ukranian prime minister had been unjustly jailed.