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Russian oligarch questioned about payments to Trump’s lawyer

Washington, May 9 (IANS) US Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigators have questioned a Russian oligarch about a payment of $500,000 that his company’s US affiliate made to President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Michael Cohen after the election, officials said.

Viktor Vekselberg, Chairman of asset manager Renova Group, is an oligarch close to Russian President Vladimir Putin and in April the Trump administration placed him on a list of sanctioned Russians for activities including 2016 US election interference, CNN news reported on Wednesday.

The attorney for Stormy Daniels — the porn star who received $130,000 to keep quiet about an alleged affair she had with Trump a decade ago — produced information on Tuesday evening. Michael Avenatti alleged that Cohen received half a million dollars from a company affiliated with Vekselberg in the months after the presidential election.

He said that an amount of $500,000 went into the bank account for Essential Consultants, a shell company that Cohen set up before the election that was used to pay Daniels. Avenatti added that the payments occurred from January to August 2017.

Vekselberg is one of the two Russian oligarchs the FBI stopped earlier in 2018 after their private jets landed in New York-area airports as part of Mueller’s investigation.

The purpose of the payments and the nature of the business relationship between Vekselberg and Cohen was unclear.

The scrutiny of the payments could add to the legal troubles for Cohen, whose home and office were raided in April as part of a criminal investigation by federal prosecutors in Manhattan.

In court documents, the prosecutors said at least part of their inquiry stemmed from a referral from Mueller’s office.

Investigators also asked Vekselberg about donations the head of his US affiliate made to Trump’s inaugural fund and campaign funds, the report said.



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