Natalia Veselnitskaya: The case against me is propensity evidence in sheep‘s clothing
Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya has given an interview to Interfax in which she speaks about the charges brought against her in the United States.Question: What‘s the point of the charges against you?
Answer: The point is not at all about the essence of the charge, but about who is making the charges. His name is Paul Monteleoni.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Monteleoni used to run my client‘s case, for three years amending the complaint filed by the former U.S. Attorney Mr. Bharara, but eventually dropped it. He knows more about my immersion in the case, its nuances and details, than anyone else. He and his team of assistants made no secret of their persistent irritation over my presence in the proceedings and participation in the depositions of all their so-called witnesses and experts on Russia. I consider these charges a personal vendetta by the alliance of William Browder and Monteleoni. AUSA has practically become a private lawyer of an individual repeatedly convicted of tax fraud and other economic crimes, Mr. Browder, using the mechanisms of the U.S. Attorney‘s Office to square personal accounts. But apparently the loss turned out to be so painful for him that he‘s also involving the judiciary in his revenge. The entire charge against me is nothing but propensity evidence in sheep‘s clothing.
Monteleoni‘s case in the same district was based solely on unsubstantiated claims by Browder, who couldn‘t produce any proof of his story in his two depositions, which he‘s been feeding to the U.S. and to European countries for almost nine years. It‘s like the story about "the house that Jack built": the U.S. Congress repeated Browder‘s words in the Magnitsky Act without any verification, then Andreas Gross did so 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 alleged embezzlement from the Russian budget 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 excluded from the case either by the U.S. Attorney himself, or by the Court‘s decision, pursuant to motions filed by the Russian side.
I am sure Monteleoni decided to drop the case after three-and-a-half years because he realized how great the chances of losing this case were, despite the anti-Russian sentiments in New York in 2017. He understood more than anyone else that Browder‘s legend, laid down in the form of a complaint about a 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. In April 2017, when it had become clear that with his active efforts in the interests of real criminals, he was about to discredit the Magnitsky Act, 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 to be unreliable and scandalous, and PACE‘s work on its approval to be encouraged by Browder. If Monteleoni hadn‘t opted to stop referring to the Magnitsky Act, it is quite possible that this document would have shared the same fate.
Q.: Why did they decide to charge you with obstruction of justice in the U.S. a few years later?
A.: In my case, the same AUSA is employing the same method - he‘s still acting on the basis of insinuations and context distortion. His behavioral model is similar, but he has acquired even more unreasonable intolerance. Monteleoni can‘t hold anything against the U.S. lawyers; he just won‘t get any support. And the 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 past year, and she will obviously not come to the U.S. Such actions are unbefitting of a U.S. Attorney and of a human being.
Browder‘s use of the judiciary to pursue his private goals, the abuse of official powers [by officials from the U.S. Attorney‘s Office and the U.S. Congress] - this is the real obstruction of justice. That was exactly what I said as soon as I learned about that ridiculous, 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 U.S. 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, so such words as honor and conscience are more than just words to me. I regard such accusations as a personal insult.
Q.: How can you comment on the content of the correspondence referred to in the indictment?
A.: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 or 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 be evidence of any conspiracy, nor constitute any wrongdoing.
If we just speculate what exactly this is all about, we can assume that the charges are based on documents obtained by Mikhail Khodorkovsky from an unknown source. Back in April 2018, he said on an American TV channel that he had received data from certain email resources hacked by unidentified individuals. The reporter who showed them to me didn‘t have the brass to broadcast my entire unedited interview but preferred to make some cuts, and now he does interviews where he‘s dripping 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 U.S., 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 behavioral pattern, at least in Prevezon case. We have repeatedly said in court that in the course of discovery, the story about the Russian Treasury fraud was proven 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 the court, "causes concern."
Q.: What results do you expect?
A.:From the U.S. judicial system I expect impartiality and legality, the kind I saw in the Prevezon case. And from the jurors, U.S. citizens, I expect loyalty to 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 are no details in it that could be analyzed, I personally observed what the actual U.S. legal proceedings were. We will fight.
Q.: Your case is being handled by the chief judge for SDNY, who was appointed by Bill Clinton. Do you see a trick here? How is that you, the person who allegedly tried to pass on compromising stuff about Hillary Clinton, whose case has occupied the headlines of all the U.S. tabloids for the last year and a half, ended up with the chief judge? Do you still believe in American justice?
A.:I do not know how cases are assigned in the Southern District, and I can‘t comment on that. But the chief judge is, above all, a judge. And it is a very high standard. Of course, one should not idealize the U.S. judicial system. It has its flaws: first and foremost, 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 U.S. that I simply can‘t afford the risk of being taken hostage. Another problem is to find a lawyer remotely whom 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.
Q.: What, in your opinion, is the U.S. Attorney pursuing in this case? Is it somehow connected with the investigation by Special Counsel Robert Mueller?
A.:Let me begin with the first part: to 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 today, in the United States, this case does not look as unambiguous as two years ago: too many people began to wonder about Browder‘s identity, his patrons, the reasons that the U.S. Congress passed the first sanctions law, which unleashed 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 the closure of the case against my client.
As for 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 of the charges he brought, I am one of the key figures in the investigation. As I have repeatedly said through the media and in my testimony before the U.S. 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 U.S. electoral process, it is not unthinkable that 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 isolated me, try to get some confessions from me: that would be quite a workable scheme. But this is the realm of speculation. What‘s obvious to me is that all this is the personal vendetta of Mr. Monteleoni, who put his entire career in the service of a fugitive criminal and manipulator, William Browder, but has become a fiasco.