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Trump-Russia collusion investigations

Dutch lawyer Alex van der Zwaan given 30 days in jail for lying to Robert Mueller in Trump-Russia probe

Alex van der Zwaan pleaded guilty to lying to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators and is the first person to be sentenced in the probe.

PUBLISHED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2018, 12:20am
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 April, 2018, 1:48am

The Dutch son-in-law of one of Russia’s richest men was sentenced on Tuesday to 30 days in prison and a US$20,000 fine for lying to special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators about contacts with the deputy chairman of US President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Alex van der Zwaan, a lawyer who once worked closely with Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, was also sentenced to two months of supervised release and said he was sorry for what he did.

“What I did was wrong. I apologise to this court, and I apologise to my wife,” van der Zwaan said at the hearing in federal court in Washington.

Van der Zwaan, 33, previously worked in the London office of the international law firm Skadden Arps, Slate, Meagher and Flom and is married to Eva Khan, the daughter of Russian billionaire German Khan, founder of the privately owned Alfa Bank.

His lawyers had asked that he be able to return to London by August, when his wife is due to deliver their first child. 

He had pleaded guilty on February 20 as Mueller intensified his investigation into potential collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia, and is the first person to be sentenced in the probe. 

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In 2016, after Manafort became chairman of Trump’s election campaign and took Rick Gates as his deputy, van der Zwaan and Gates both had communications with a person they knew as a former official of Russia’s GRU intelligence agency, prosecutors said.

According to the FBI, court documents say, that individual – identified as “Person A” – “has ties to a Russian intelligence service and had such ties in 2016”.

Van der Zwaan lied to investigators on several occasions about his contacts with both Gates and “Person A”, prosecutors said.

After his lies were called out, van der Zwaan gave investigators recordings of his conversations with Gates, “Person A” and a senior Skadden partner.

While the details of those conversations remain secret, court documents suggest they support the idea of more extensive contacts between the Trump campaign and Russia during the election than the White House has admitted.

Van der Zwaan faced up to five years in jail. 

US intelligence agencies say Russian President Vladimir Putin himself was behind a hacking and disinformation effort to disrupt the election and increase Trump’s chances of winning.

The van der Zwaan case could add to the pressure the investigation is putting on Trump, his family and top aides.

Mueller’s team, formally called the Office of the Special Counsel, said in a filing that “Van der Zwaan is in an unusual position of having information related to the office’s investigation that is not widely known – including information that he knows first-hand due to his role in the conduct the office is investigating.”