Alex Van Der Zwann, a 33 year old Dutch citizen and former lawyer with Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, recently pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents and federal prosecutors during a meeting on November 3, 2017. Van Der Zwann, the son-in-law of Russian billionaire German Khan, as reported by Mother Jones,
“…worked on a report that Skadden produced in 2012 that defended the government of then-Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, a pro-Russia leader, over its prosecution and imprisonment of Yulia Tymoshenko, a political rival. The report by the top-tier law firm was supposedly independent, giving a veneer of legitimacy to Tymoshenko’s prosecution, which was widely denounced in Europe and the United States. Skadden was brought on to produce the report by Paul Manafort, then a political adviser to Yanukovych. Rick Gates, Manafort’s longtime business associate, oversaw the production of the report. Both men went on to become Trump campaign officials.
After Yanukovych’s ouster by a popular revolution in 2014, Ukraine’s new government began investigating the circumstances of the report. The country’s investigation revealed that Skadden agreed to an unusual payment formula: The firm initially accepted a fee of about $12,000 for the report, less than the amount that required public bidding in Ukraine, Bloomberg reported. The following year, with no new work done, Ukraine paid Skadden about $1.1 million. After the Justice Department questioned Skadden about the payment, the firm refunded $567,000 to Ukraine, saying it had been overpaid.”
Mueller’s prosecutors charged Manafort and Gates with money laundering in October. Those charges were related to their lobbying with the Ukraine. According to prosecutors, Van Der Zwann lied about his contacts with Gates, Ukrainian citizens and officials, and his role in preparing the report, several times. As part of his plea agreement, he is expected to be sentenced to up to six months in prison.
Although Van Der Zwann played a relatively small part in the Trump administration, his prosecution should not be ignored, because it suggests that Mueller’s investigation isn’t limited to Manafort and Gates when it comes to undisclosed lobbying for the Ukraine.