The original Magnitsky Act leveled U.S. financial sanctions on 18 Russian officials and individuals suspected of complicity in Magnitsky’s prosecution, imprisonment and death.
A Global Magnitsky Act that passed in December 2016 gives the president power to impose visa bans and freeze U.S. assets of anyone who suppresses basic human rights or targets whistleblowers exposing corruption.
Early in 2016, Akhmetshin said, he helped set up a non-profit foundation based in Delaware to lobby U.S. officials in an effort to strip Magnitsky’s name from the law, though he maintains that he was not attempting to undercut it.
As an adjunct to the foundation’s lobbying, Veselnitskaya also organized and attended a screening of an anti-Magnitsky documentary film that played at the Newseum in Washington four days after she met with Trump Jr. in New York. Akhmetshin acknowledged he was also involved in promoting the film.
Several wealthy Russian oligarchs agreed to provide financial backing for the foundation’s lobbying, Akhmetshin said, providing at least $300,000.
Among them, he said, was Dennis Katsyv, the owner of a real estate investment firm who was battling against a Justice Department lawsuit at the time connected to the seized investment firm.
The federal government this year settled with Katsyv’s firm, allowing the company to pay a $6 million fine without admitting guilt.
Congressional lobbying documents show that the foundation Akhmentshin helped set up spent $290,000 last year on lobbying. At least $10,000, the records indicate, was paid directly to Akhmetshim as a lobbyist.
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 counterintelligence officer” and accused him of involvement in the hacking of its computer systems. Those claims were withdrawn last year, court records show.
In a separate case, he described his business as “strategic communications” with clients including national governments and high-ranking officials of those governments. Disclosure of his communications, he said, could put lives at risk.
Akhmetshin said he has not been contacted by the special counsel’s office or the FBI about the meeting with Trump Jr. He said he’s willing to talk with the Senate Judiciary Committee, whose chairman has pressed the Justice Department about why Akhmetshin has not registered as a foreign agent.
The chairman, Republican Chuck Grassley of Iowa, said in a March letter that Akhmetshin has “reportedly admitted to being a ‘Soviet counterintelligence officer’ and has a long history of lobbying the U.S. government for pro-Russia matters.”
Akhmetshin said the Justice Department prodded him several months ago to register as a foreign agent because of his lobbying work, though he said he doesn’t believe he needs to do so. He has previously registered with Congress for the lobbying, and he plans to raise this issue before Grassley’s committee.
“I think I have a legal right to tell my story,” he said.