One of New York’s most prestigious law firms raised eyebrows five years ago when it produced a report for the pro-Russian government in Ukraine that largely defended the prosecution and conviction of Yulia Tymoshenko, the blond-braided former prime minister.
The report, by Skadden Arps Slate Meagher & Flom LLC, defied the view held by the U.S. and the European Union that the case against her was politically motivated. The firm’s $12,000 payment was modest, just below the amount that required public bidding.
The following year, however, with no further work done, Ukraine sent Skadden $1 million. After the pro-Russian government was run out of town in 2014, the new authorities began investigating.
…Manafort and his partner Richard Gates are accused of laundering millions of dollars from unreported work for Ukraine and its political parties, money that ran through offshore accounts.
…Manafort was a longtime political adviser to Tymoshenko’s rival, the pro-Russian politician Viktor Yanukovych, advising him on political strategy and sprucing up his image in Washington. After Yanukovych clinched the presidency in 2010, he ordered an investigation of Tymoshenko that resulted in a conviction and seven-year sentence, widely condemned abroad.
…Correspondence between Craig, Manafort and the Ukrainian government show Skadden agreeing to accept payment from a “third party,” Radionov, the prosecutor, said. What that means is unclear.
…The indictment provides fresh details about Manafort’s clandestine influence campaign on behalf of Yanukovych in the U.S. It alleges that offshore accounts associated with Manafort and Gates paid more than $2 million between 2012 and 2014 to two companies that lobbied members of Congress and their staffs about Ukraine sanctions and “the propriety of imprisoning his presidential rival.”
…Investigators in the U.S. and Ukraine have been looking into Manafort’s and Skadden’s work. But Serhiy Gorbatyuk, the Ukrainian prosecutor investigating Yanukovych-era crimes, says seven letters from the general prosecutor to the U.S. Justice Department have gone unanswered. This week, an FBI agent meeting with Ukrainian prosecutors in Kiev got an earful about lack of cooperation and failing to use proper procedures to collect documents in Ukraine, Radionov said.