Pop star and lob­by­ist head­line web of Krem­lin con­nec­tions

Houston Chronicle Sunday - - POLITICS - By Nataliya Vasilyeva

MOSCOW — A bil­lion­aire real es­tate mogul, his pop singer son and a mu­sic pro­moter. A prop­erty lawyer, Rus­sia’s pros­e­cu­tor gen­eral and a Rus­sian-Amer­i­can lob­by­ist.

These un­likely fig­ures have come to the fore as rev­e­la­tions that Don­ald Trump’s pres­i­den­tial cam­paign sought po­ten­tially dam­ag­ing in­for­ma­tion in June 2016 from Rus­sia about his op­po­nent, Hil­lary Clin­ton.

A look at some of those in­volved in the email ex­change and the meet­ing at Trump Tower that fol­lowed:

Aras and Emin Agalarov

Real es­tate ty­coon Aras Agalarov, 61, and his 37-year-old singer-song­writer son, who goes by the stage name Emin, spent time with Trump in Rus­sia af­ter they bought the rights to hold the 2013 Miss Uni­verse pageant in Moscow.

Al­though Aras Agalarov does not be­long to Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin’s in­ner cir­cle, he has amassed nu­mer­ous gov­ern­ment con­tracts, an in­di­ca­tion of Krem­lin pa­tron­age. Aras Agalarov tried to get Trump an au­di­ence with Putin in 2013, but the pres­i­dent can­celed the ses­sion.

Rob Gold­stone

The Bri­tish-born Gold­stone is the co-founder of Oui 2 Entertainment, a Man­hat­tan­based mu­sic man­age­ment com­pany that says on its web­site it has rep­re­sented Michael Jack­son and B.B. King, among others.

The Agalarovs hired Gold­stone to help with the Miss Uni­verse pageant in Moscow.

In an in­ter­view Mon­day with the AP, Gold­stone said he set up the 2016 meet­ing with Don­ald Trump Jr.

Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya

Ve­sel­nit­skaya started her ca­reer at the pros­e­cu­tor’s of­fice in the Moscow re­gion in 1999, but be­came known af­ter 2001 for de­fend­ing prop­erty deals that her op­po­nents and ac­tivists la­beled cor­po­rate land grabs.

In Rus­sia’s no­to­ri­ously cor­rupt court sys­tems, good con­nec­tions are im­por­tant, and she has them. She is mar­ried to Alexan­der Mi­tusov, for­mer deputy pros­e­cu­tor for the Moscow re­gion, and she has rep­re­sented the fam­ily of Py­otr Kat­syv, vice pres­i­dent of sta­te­owned Rus­sian Rail­ways and for­mer trans­porta­tion min­is­ter for the Moscow re­gion.

She also rep­re­sented Kat­syv’s son, De­nis, in a mon­ey­laun­der­ing case in Man­hat­tan that was set­tled for $6 mil­lion in May, three days be­fore it was to go to trial.

The case was re­lated to a $230 mil­lion Rus­sian tax-fraud scheme that was brought to light by a whistle­blower named Sergei Mag­nit­sky, who was ar­rested and died in a Moscow prison in 2009. An of­fi­cial Rus­sian in­ves­ti­ga­tion of his death said he suf­fered a heart at­tack, but a re­port by the pres­i­den­tial hu­man rights com­mis­sion found Mag­nit­sky was beaten and then de­nied med­i­cal treat­ment.

In 2012, the U.S. Congress passed the Mag­nit­sky Act, im­pos­ing sanc­tions on Rus­sian of­fi­cials in­volved in al­leged hu­man rights vi­o­la­tions in the case. Rus­sian law­mak­ers re­sponded by passing a mea­sure that banned Amer­i­cans from adopt­ing Rus­sian chil­dren.

Yuri Chaika

Chaika, pros­e­cu­tor gen­eral since 2006, is a long­time con­fi­dant of Putin and one of Rus­sia’s most pow­er­ful law en­force­ment of­fi­cials.

Ri­nat Akhmetshin

Akhmetshin is a for­mer mil­i­tary of­fi­cer who has at­tracted con­gres­sional scru­tiny over his po­lit­i­cal ac­tiv­i­ties and has been shad­owed by al­le­ga­tions of con­nec­tions to Rus­sian in­tel­li­gence.

A nat­u­ral­ized Amer­i­can cit­i­zen who has lived in Washington since the early 1990s, Akhmetshin is known for hav­ing lob­bied to weaken a U.S. law levy­ing sanc­tions on Rus­sians and his name has also sur­faced in law­suits, in­clud­ing one in­volv­ing the hack­ing of a com­pany’s com­puter sys­tems.

Akhmetshin de­nied sug­ges­tions made in me­dia reports, con­gres­sional let­ters and lit­i­ga­tion that he is a for­mer of­fi­cer in Rus­sia’s mil­i­tary in­tel­li­gence ser­vice. Along with Ve­sel­nit­skaya, Akhmetshin is known for lob­by­ing ef­forts to un­der­cut the Mag­nit­sky Act.

Early in 2016, Akhmetshin said, he helped setup a non­profit foun­da­tion based in Delaware, the Hu­man Rights Ac­count­abil­ity Global Ini­tia­tive, to lobby U.S. of­fi­cials in an ef­fort to strip Mag­nit­sky’s name from the law.

Akhmetshin’s name has also sur­faced in law­suits, in­clud­ing a New York court case in which a min­ing com­pany branded him a“for­mer Soviet mil­i­tary counter in­tel­li­gence of­fi­cer” and ac­cused him of in­volve­ment in the hack­ing of its com­puter sys­tems. Those claims were with­drawn last year, court records show.

Clock­wise from top left: Aras Agalarov, Emin Agalarov, Rob Gold­stone, Ri­nat Akhmetshin and Natalia Ve­sel­nit­skaya

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