LONDON—A corrupt former police officer who was caught working with Trump Tower lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya has revealed in a Swiss court how Russia’s complex foreign influence campaign targets justice systems in Western countries.
The former consultant to the Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office was sacked and convicted after his entanglement with Veselnitskaya and the Russian prosecutor general’s office was exposed. He reportedly told a court in Switzerland this week that he discussed a high-profile corruption case against Russia with Russian officials during an all-expenses-paid hunting trip to Siberia.
On the visit to the spectacular Kamchatka Peninsula and Lake Baikal, the official, who is identified only as Victor K., reportedly admitted that he spent a week fishing, enjoying the rugged countryside, and hunting for bear, including from a helicopter, with officials from the Russian prosecutor general’s office.
Victor K. told the appeals court Tuesday that he had conferred with the Russian officials on the trip about the high-profile Magnitsky case, which he was supposed to be investigating. The $230 million fraud against the Russian people was uncovered by Sergei Magnitsky, who was subsequently detained and beaten by Russian officials, who left him to die in a prison cell.
The case led to American sanctions against Russia, which were signed into law by President Barack Obama in 2012, after a campaign by U.S.-born financier Bill Browder. While the Swiss authorities originally froze millions connected to the Magnitsky case that flowed through Switzerland nine years ago, the case has stalled.
The appeals court ruled Friday that Victor K. was guilty of improperly accepting the hunting trip, but it dismissed the fine that had been imposed by a lower court.
“The decision holds; he received undue benefit from the Russians, but it’s just a slap on the wrist for a serious crime,” Browder told The Daily Beast. “The fact that the Swiss discovered a Russian mole and he bears effectively no consequence is pretty alarming, and makes Switzerland look like a banana republic.”
According to a lawyer who attended the hearing, Victor K. told the court that he had spent three or four hours discussing the Magnitsky case with the Russian officials. The lawyer’s transcript also said he told his bosses in the Swiss Federal Prosecutor’s Office that they should drop the case, because they would never be able to follow the money trail, which he likened to finding the source of several bottles of wine once they had all been poured into the same barrel.
On a previous trip to Moscow, Swiss court papers revealed that Victor K. met Veselnitskaya, the lawyer responsible for the notorious Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, and Jared Kushner.
Victor K., who was responsible for working on investigations into the Swiss financial dealing of the Russian mafia and oligarchs for decades, had met Veselnitskaya’s collaborator, Russian Deputy Attorney General Saak Albertovich Karapetyan, in Geneva, Zurich, and Moscow “without the knowledge of his superiors,” according to Swiss court papers. Karapetyan was one of the members of the delegation on the Siberian hunting retreat.
Novaya Gazeta reported last month that Victor K. mysteriously continued to take trips to Russia after he stopped working for the Swiss authorities.