Due diligence and background checks are sometimes as indispensable as an antiseptic liquid or protective gloves. Some people are literally contagious; others are metaphorically toxic. It may be tempting for a germaphobe’s son to ignore these precautions but prudence shouldn’t have yielded to temptation.
I don’t disagree with Prof. Pirrong’s take on the Veselnitskaya-Trump Jr. meeting, but I wish the media had researched V’s success story a little more studiously. Leonid Bershidsky provides some relevant background on Bloomberg:
Natalia Veselnitskaya… is often described as someone with “connections to the Kremlin.” That’s misleading, although her involvement still says much about how power works in Russia.
How power is exploited and abused for private gain, more like. The Kremlin, according to Berhidsky, is not where one should look for “the ties that made Veselnitskaya a successful lawyer.” The right place is the headquarters of the government of the Moscow region (oblast’), “the constituent part of the Russian Federation which surrounds but doesn’t include the city of Moscow.”
…she married deputy prosecutor Alexander Mitusov — one of the region’s most influential law enforcement officials — and set up a private practice in the Moscow Region. Her success rate and reputation were soon fearsome…
Little wonder they were, considering her husband’s influence in the region, but it was only the beginning. A few years later…
…Mitusov became deputy transport minister under Pyotr Katsyv, Gromov’s deputy and the regional transport minister…
This seems the nexus of the story. Petr (Pyotr) Katsyv, the father of V’s client, was the transportation minister of the Moscow region in 2000-2012. The lady’s (ex-)husband was Katsyv’s deputy in 2005-2012, having already served as a deputy chief prosecutor of the Moscow region for twelve years. V was a “formidable operator” involved in “murky real-estate deals in the Moscow region.” Was she a junior equity partner in a typical post-Soviet “business enterprise?” Was her own money – proceeds from this business – at risk in US v. Prevezon?
If there are good enough reasons to suspect the answer is yes to both questions, one should took care to stay away from this “formidable” character. I think Bershidsky got it right: during Boris Gromov’s tenure (2000-12), the Moscow region’s government acquired a reputation for being notoriously, dangerously corrupt even by Russian standards. Don’t touch anyone, anything close to that gang with a barge pole.
This said, V’s interests happened to be aligned with the Kremlin’s in this case. She tried to lobby against the Magnitsky Act because her client faced a civil forfeiture lawsuit under it and – as I’ve explained – because more could have been at stake for her than a fee.
As a postscript, Moscow oblast is a major transport hub because all the roads in Russia lead to Moscow, literally.