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Marc Kasowitz, Trump Lawyer, Also Represents a Russian Bank

“I don’t want to blame anybody, but I cannot exclude that they want to use him for his connections,” Dmitri Y. Fomichyev, a lawyer for Mr. Poymanov, said in an interview in Moscow. “I cannot exclude that was their motivation. The question is out there.”

Sberbank, in a statement, denied hiring Mr. Kasowitz for his White House connections. “Sberbank, after checking with a number of people in the U.S., retained him because of his reputation and his litigation track record,” the statement said. “His retention had nothing to do with his representation of President Trump.”

In a statement, Mr. Kasowitz’s law firm said that it was a co-counsel on the case with another firm, Debevoise & Plimpton, and that a former client, whom the firm would not name, had referred Sberbank. It said Sberbank executives had never expressed interest in Mr. Kasowitz’s high-level connection.

“That is inconsistent with what the client said regarding the reasons the firm was hired,” the statement said. “We were told it was because of the firm’s track record in achieving outstanding results for our clients.”

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Sberbank has denied that it hired Mr. Kasowitz, center, because of his connection to Mr. Trump. Credit Justin T. Gellerson for The New York Times

Mr. Poymanov’s legal team is not the only group that suspects politics may have seeped into Manhattan’s Federal District Court. A group of Democratic lawmakers on Capitol Hill has asked the Justice Department to explain why federal prosecutors in May settled money-laundering claims against a client of Natalia V. Veselnitskaya’s, the lawyer who had met with Donald Trump Jr. and other senior Trump campaign officials last year after promising through an intermediary to hand over damaging information about Hillary Clinton.

Ms. Veselnitskaya’s client, Prevezon Holdings, paid $ 6 million to resolve the claim without admitting any crime. The company had been accused of laundering money stolen in a tax fraud in Russia that was first identified by Sergei L. Magnitsky, a tax lawyer who was arrested and died in custody. While the prosecution portrayed the settlement as a victory, Ms. Veselnitskaya told the Russian newspaper Izvestia that it was “almost an apology from the government.”

After news of meeting with the campaign came to light, all 17 Democrats on the House Judiciary Committee wrote to Attorney General Jeff Sessions last month, raising questions about the decision to settle.

“Even if these facts are mere coincidence — and there is reason to be doubtful that they are mere coincidence — they merit immediate explanation by the attorney general and immediate investigation,” Representative John Conyers Jr., Democrat of Michigan, said in a statement.

A spokesman for the court, James M. Margolin, wrote in an email that prosecutors had been prepared to go to trial in the Prevezon Holdings case, but that defense lawyers had initiated talks that led to the settlement.

Mr. Poymanov’s case began as a property dispute predating the 2016 presidential election. He sued Sberbank, several of its subsidiaries and executives, and a business rival for $ 750 million, claiming that a valuable gravel quarry he owned was illegally bankrupted and seized by the bank in a corporate raid five years ago. Sberbank says it took the quarry as collateral after Mr. Poymanov failed to repay a loan.

Mr. Poymanov sued in New York through a company based in the United States, PPF Management, to avoid the politicized Russian justice system, according to the filing. The lawsuit, filed in November, says he was seeking a hearing “in a system that is adherent to the rule of law.”

The two Russian cases do have one thing in common: Mr. Poymanov’s lawyers accuse Mr. Kasowitz’s client Sberbank of also having gotten a little help from the Russian government.

After Mr. Poymanov filed the lawsuit in New York, they say, the Russian police arrested him and subjected him to harsh pretrial detention at a notoriously rough Moscow jail, Matrosskaya Tishina, in the hope of persuading him to drop the case against Sberbank in New York. Sberbank denied any involvement in the arrest.

Matrosskaya Tishina, or the Silence of the Sailors, is the jail where Mr. Magnitsky died. “The goal,” said Mr. Fomichyev, one of Mr. Poymanov’s lawyers, “is to marinate the man in jail so he gives up.”

Source: NYT > World

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