A London-based lawyer pleaded guilty Tuesday to lying to U.S. investigators about his contacts with Rick Gates, a former campaign aide to President Donald Trump, as part of the widening probe of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election.
The office of Special Counsel Robert Mueller disclosed the accusations against attorney Alex Van der Zwaan early Tuesday, and he pleaded guilty later in the day in a Washington court. Van der Zwaan is the son-in-law of Russian billionaire German Khan and had been working for the prominent New York law firm of Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom until the firm said it fired him last year.
WATCH: Van der Zwaan arrives at courthouse
Mueller’s office allegedly said that while Van der Zwaan was working for Skadden, he falsely claimed that his last contact with Gates was in mid-August 2016. The law firm had been hired by the Ukraine justice ministry in 2012 to prepare a report justifying the prosecution of former Ukraine Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko, who had been convicted of embezzlement and abuse of power and imprisoned, but was later cleared of the charges.
The prosecutors alleged that Van der Zwaan lied when he said he did not know why a September 2016 email between him and an unnamed person was not turned over to Mueller’s office, when he actually had deleted it. The criminal information filed against Van der Zwaan also alleged he lied about his last communications with Gates and the unnamed person.
Gates and former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort were indicted in October on money-laundering charges over their consulting work in Ukraine for the Russian-backed government of one-time president Viktor Yanukovych, who was toppled in a popular uprising in 2014 and fled to exile in Russia. The accusations against Gates and Manafort predate Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign.
Last week, Mueller indicted 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities for conducting an illegal “information warfare” campaign to disrupt the 2016 U.S. election to help Trump win the White House. Mueller already has secured guilty pleas from former national security adviser Michael Flynn and one-time foreign affairs adviser George Papadopoulos for lying to investigators about their contacts with Russia.