Rinat Akhmetshin

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Rinat Akhmetshin
Native name Ринат Рафкатовитч Ахметшин
Born Rinat Rafkatovitch Akhmetshin
1967 (age 50–51)
Kazan, Tatar ASSR, Soviet Union
Nationality
Occupation Lobbyist
Known for Attendance at the Trump campaign–Russian meeting

Rinat Rafkatovitch Akhmetshin[1] (Russian: Ринат Рафкатовитч Ахметшин, born 1967) is a Russian-American[2] lobbyist and former Soviet counterintelligence officer.[3][4] He came to American media spotlight in July 2017 as a registered lobbyist for an organisation run by Russian lawyer Natalia Veselnitskaya,[5] who, along with him, had a meeting with Donald Trump's election campaign officials in June 2016.[6][7]

Biography[edit]

Akhmetshin was born in Jan 22, 1968 Kazan, Tatarstan.[1][8] Akhmetshin served as a counterintelligence officer under the Soviet Union and, according to some U.S. officials, is suspected of "having ongoing ties to Russian Intelligence".[3][4] According to his statements, from 1986 to 1988 Rinat Akhmetshin served as a draftee in a unit of the Soviet military that had responsibility for law enforcement issues as well as some counterintelligence matters.[2][9]

He moved to the United States in 1994.[9] In 1998, he set up the Washington D.C. office of the International Eurasian Institute for Economic and Political Research to "help expand democracy and the rule of law in Eurasia."[10] He has been tied to lobbying for political opposition to Kazakhstan's ruling president Nursultan Nazarbayev, efforts to discredit former member of Russia's parliament Ashot Egiazaryan who fled to the U.S., as well as major corporate disputes.[10]

In 2009, he obtained citizenship of the United States.[10] In 2016 Akhmetshin told Politico: "Just because I was born in Russia doesn't mean I am an agent of [the] Kremlin."[6]

In 2010, he submitted an op-ed to The Washington Times on behalf of Viktor Ivanov the director of Russia's anti-narcotic police.[11]

Hacking incidents and smear campaign[edit]

According to the New York Times, Akhmetshin was accused of being involved in two hacking campaigns and reportedly had a web of Russian connections.[1][12]

In 2011, Akhmetshin was hired by Andrey Vavilov mount a media campaign in order to derail Egiazaryan's application for asylum in the United States.[13] Egiazaryan, a former State Duma member had fled Russia in 2010.[14] According to his own testimony, Akhmetshin was paid "$70,000 or $80,000" in $100 bills.[13] Akhmetshin pushed negative stories on Egiazaryan in the American and Russian press, and also helped manipulate internet search results to further promote the negative stories.[15]

Also in 2011, Akhmetshin was employed by an alliance of businessmen led by Dagestani politician Suleiman Kerimov, a financier close to Putin who was in a commercial and political dispute with competitor Egiazaryan.[1] In early 2011 two of Egiazaryan's lawyers based in London received suspicious emails. The forensics experts they hired for analysis found that the emails contained spyware, and when they fed traceable documents into the spyware the documents were opened by computers registered at the Moscow office park of a company owned by Kerimov.[1] Scotland Yard spent more than 18 months investigating the case but in 2013 concluded that they lacked sufficient evidence to bring charges.[1] In court papers Akhmetshin stated that he was paid only by one businessman in the Kerimov alliance, but coordinated with Kerimov's team.[1]

In a lawsuit filed in July 2015 with the United States District Court for the District of Columbia, it was alleged by International Mineral Resources (IMR) that Akhmetshin had arranged the hacking of a mining company's private records. In court papers filed with the New York Supreme Court in November 2015, lawyers for IMR, a Kazakh mining company that alleged it had been hacked, accused Akhmetshin of hacking into two computer systems and stealing sensitive and confidential materials as part of an alleged black-ops smear campaign against IMR. Akhmetshin, who was hired as an expert by a US law firm, denied hacking or asking anyone else to hack into IMR. He said he gathered research for the firm by bartering information with journalists before he was fired because of his ties to another client, the former prime minister of Kazakhstan, who was then an opposition figure in exile. The hacking accusations were later dropped and the case, which was litigated in New York and Washington, was dismissed.[16][17]

Political activities[edit]

In July 2016, an article in Radio Free Europe stated: "Barely registering in U.S. lobbying records, the 48-year-old Akhmetshin has been tied to efforts to bolster opponents of Kazakhstan's ruling regime, discredit a fugitive former member of Russia's parliament, and undermine a Russian-owned mining firm involved in a billion-dollar lawsuit with company information allegedly stolen by hackers."[10]

Lobbying against Magnitsky Act[edit]

Akhmetshin was linked to Fusion GPS in Washington, D.C., and involved in a pro-Russian campaign in 2016 which involved lobbying congressional staffers to overturn the Magnitsky Act. Both Fusion GPS and Akhmetshin were subject of a complaint by United States Senate Committee on the Judiciary Chairman Chuck Grassley for failure to register as foreign agents under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.[18][19]

2016 United States elections[edit]

On 14 July 2017, it was confirmed by multiple sources, including Akhmetshin himself,[20][21][22] that he was a fifth and previously undisclosed attendee who met with Donald Trump Jr., Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya in the Trump campaign–Russian meeting at Trump Tower on June 9, 2016.[23]

Asked about Akhmetshin, Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov told reporters: "We don't know anything about this person."[24]

On August 11, 2017, Akhmetshin testified under oath for several hours in a grand jury investigation related to Robert Mueller's investigations into the Trump campaign and Russian interference in the 2016 election.[25][26]

2017 Berlin meeting with American congressman[edit]

Atrium lobby of The Westin Grand Berlin

On the night of April 11, 2017, Akhmetshin met with US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher in the lobby of The Westin Grand Berlin in Berlin, Germany.[27] There was a discussion about a high-profile money laundering case, along with related sanctions against Russia. The two had meet previously in May 2016 in a meeting in Rohrabacher's office.[28]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f g LaFraniere, Sharon; Kirkpatrick, David D.; Vogel, Kenneth P. (August 21, 2017). "Lobbyist at Trump Campaign Meeting Has a Web of Russian Connections". New York Times. Retrieved August 31, 2017. 
  2. ^ a b Russian American lobbyist was present at Trump Jr.'s meeting with Kremlin-connected lawyer The Washington Post, July 14, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Dilanian, Ken; Lebedeva, Natasha; Jackson, Hallie (July 14, 2017). "Former Soviet Counterintelligence Officer at Meeting With Donald Trump Jr. and Russian Lawyer". NBC News. Retrieved July 19, 2017. 
  4. ^ a b Quigley, Aiden (July 14, 2017). "Who Is Rinat Akhmetshin, Former Soviet Intelligence Officer In Donald Trump Jr. Meeting?". Newsweek. Retrieved July 19, 2017. 
  5. ^ Trump Tower Russia meeting: At least eight people in the room
  6. ^ a b Arnsdorf, Isaac (November 23, 2016). "Putin's favorite congressman". Politico. 
  7. ^ Marshall Cohen, Tal Kopan and Adam Chan (July 15, 2017). "The new figure in the Trump-Russia controversy: Rinat Akhmetshin". CNN. Retrieved 15 July 2017. 
  8. ^ "Rinat Akhmetshin: Who Is the Russian Lobbyist Who Met the Trump". NBC News. July 15, 2017.
  9. ^ a b "The new figure in the Trump-Russia controversy: Rinat Akhmetshin". CNN. July 15, 2017. 
  10. ^ a b c d Eckel, Mike (July 17, 2016). "Russian 'Gun-For-Hire' Lurks In Shadows Of Washington's Lobbying World". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. 
  11. ^ Higgins, Andrew; Kramer, Andrew E. (2017-07-15). "Soviet Veteran Who Met With Trump Jr. Is a Master of the Dark Arts". The New York Times. Retrieved 2017-07-16. 
  12. ^ Chait, Jonathan (August 21, 2017). "That Russian Guy Who Attended the Trump Tower Meeting Is Almost Definitely a Spy". New York. Retrieved August 31, 2017. 
  13. ^ a b Saul, Stephanie; Story, Louise (February 11, 2015). "At the Time Warner Center, an Enclave of Powerful Russians". New York Times. 
  14. ^ "Fearful Russian Lawmaker Flees To US". Associated Press. February 6, 2011 – via CBS News. 
  15. ^ Easley, Jonathan; Fabian, Jordan; Solomon, John (July 17, 2017). "Russian who attended Trump Jr. meeting: 'I just have a talent for media'". The Hill. Retrieved September 11, 2017. 
  16. ^ Poulsen, Kevin; Hines, Nico; Zavadski, Katie. "Trump Team Met Russian Accused of International Hacking Conspiracy". The Daily Beast. 
  17. ^ Dilanian, Ken; Connor, Tracy; Abou-Sabe, Kenzi. "Rinat Akhmetshin: Who Is the Russian Lobbyist Who Met the Trump Team?". NBC News. 
  18. ^ Quigley, Aidan (2017-07-14). "WHO IS RINAT AKHMETSHIN, FORMER SOVIET INTELLIGENCE OFFICER IN DONALD TRUMP JR. MEETING?". Newsweek. Retrieved 2018-01-10. 
  19. ^ Dilanian, Ken; Lebedeva, Natasha; Jackson, Hallie (2017-07-14). "Former Soviet Counterintelligence Officer at Meeting With Donald Trump Jr. and Russian Lawyer". NBC. Retrieved 2018-01-10. 
  20. ^ Russian-American lobbyist says he was in Trump son’s meeting AP, 14 july 2017.
  21. ^ Bertrand, Natasha. "A Soviet military officer-turned-lobbyist attended the Donald Trump Jr. meeting — and 'there is only one person who fits that profile'". 
  22. ^ Manchester, Julia. "Ex-Soviet officer was also in Trump Jr. meeting: report". 
  23. ^ Twohey, Megan. "How a Pageant Led to a Trump Son's Meeting With a Russian Lawyer". 
  24. ^ "Russian Gave Trump's Son Folder With Information Damaging To Clinton: Report". Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. July 15, 2017.
  25. ^ Manson, Katrina (30 August 2017). "Russian lobbyist testifies to Mueller grand jury". Financial Times. Retrieved August 31, 2017. 
  26. ^ Manson, Katrina (September 1, 2017). "Russian lobbyist Rinat Akhmetshin on that notorious meeting at Trump Tower". Financial Times. Retrieved September 7, 2017. 
  27. ^ "Inside The Russian Lawyer's And An Accused Spy's 'Adoption' Crusade". July 13, 2017. 
  28. ^ Weiss, Michael (May 4, 2017). "US Congressman talks Russian money laundering with alleged ex-spy in Berlin". CNN. Retrieved July 14, 2017.