Alex van der Zwaan, lawyer linked to ex-Trump campaign chairman, sentenced in Russia probe

 

WASHINGTON, April 3 (Reuters) - The Dutch son-in-law of one of Russia's richest men was sentenced on Tuesday to 30 days in prison and fined $20,000 for lying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators about contacts with an official in 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 by U.S. District Court Judge Amy Berman Jackson. He told the court he was sorry for what he did. 

He pleaded guilty on Feb. 20 as Mueller intensified his investigation into potential collusion between Trump's presidential campaign and Russia. It marked the first sentencing of anyone in Mueller's ongoing probe.

In pleading guilty, he admitted he lied to FBI agents about previous communications with Rick Gates, a Manafort protege who held a senior position in the Trump campaign, and that he also withheld and deleted emails.

SEE ALSO: Mueller has broad DOJ authority to investigate Manafort collusion

"What I did was wrong. I apologize to this court, and I apologize to my wife," van der Zwaan said at the sentencing hearing.

More on van der Zwaan:

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Alex van der Zwaan
Alex van der Zwaan arrives at a plea agreement hearing at the D.C. federal courthouse in Washington, U.S., February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Alex van der Zwaan arrives at a plea agreement hearing at the D.C. federal courthouse in Washington, U.S., February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Alex van der Zwaan arrives at the U.S. District Court for his sentencing in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 3, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Alex van der Zwaan goes through security at the U.S. District Court after arriving for his sentencing in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 3, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
Alex van der Zwaan arrives at the U.S. District Court for his sentencing in Washington, D.C., U.S., April 3, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
WASHINGTON, USA - FEBRUARY 20: Alex Van der Zwaan arrives at the U.S. District Courthouse to plead guilty to charges of making false statements to investigators during Robert Mueller's FBI investigation into whether or not Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential elections in Washington, United States on February 20, 2018. (Photo by Samuel Corum/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 03: Attorney Alex van der Zwaan (L), who formerly worked for the Skadden Arps law firm, arrives at a U.S. District Courthouse for his sentencing April 3, 2018 in Washington, DC. Alex van der Zwaan pleaded guilty in February to lying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators regarding his communications with Rick Gates, a former partner of former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 03: Attorney Alex van der Zwaan, who formerly worked for the Skadden Arps law firm, arrives at a U.S. District Courthouse for his sentencing April 3, 2018 in Washington, DC. Alex van der Zwaan pleaded guilty in February to lying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators regarding his communications with Rick Gates, a former partner of former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 03: Attorney Alex van der Zwaan (2nd R), who formerly worked for the Skadden Arps law firm, arrives at a U.S. District Courthouse for his sentencing April 3, 2018 in Washington, DC. Alex van der Zwaan pleaded guilty in February to lying to Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigators regarding his communications with Rick Gates, a former partner of former Donald Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
Alex van der Zwaan leaves after a plea agreement hearing at the D.C. federal courthouse in Washington, U.S., February 20, 2018. REUTERS/Yuri Gripas
Alex van der Zwaan arrives at the U.S. District Court for his sentencing in Washington, U.S. April 3, 2018. REUTERS/Leah Millis
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Van der Zwaan's attorney, William Jay Schwartz, asked the judge to impose only a fine and allow his client to leave the country, saying he had already been punished enough and should receive credit for returning to the United States last year after lying to Mueller's investigators to correct the record.

Since his return in December 2017, his lawyer said, van der Zwaan has been walled up in a residential hotel in Washington and unable to return to London, where his wife is undergoing a difficult first pregnancy.

"He is literally in limbo," Schwartz said.

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

Van der Zwaan's apology and Schwartz's explanations for his client's actions appeared to ring hollow for the judge.

"This was more than a mistake. It was more than a lapse or misguided moment," Jackson said.

The judge added that she was disappointed he did not write a letter to the court on his own behalf to express remorse, and said it would not deter others if she merely let him "write a check and walk away."

Van der Zwaan worked closely with Manafort and Gates in 2012, before their involvement in the Trump campaign, when they were serving as political consultants for Ukraine's former pro-Russia President Viktor Yanukovych on a report about former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

Mueller has secured two indictments against Manafort arising from his lobbying for the pro-Russian Ukrainian Party of Regions, with charges ranging from failing to register as a foreign agent and conspiring to launder money, to bank fraud and filing false tax returns. Manafort has pleaded not guilty.

Gates pleaded guilty on Feb. 23 to conspiring to defraud the United States and lying to Mueller's office, and is now cooperating with the probe. (Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch; Editing by Will Dunham Editing by Will Dunham and Susan Heavey)

 

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