Solicitor who lied to Mueller inquiry referred to SDT

Trump: Probe netted solicitor

A solicitor who was jailed for 30 days after pleading guilty to making false statements to the Mueller inquiry into alleged Russian involvement in the election of US president Donald Trump has been referred to the Solicitors Disciplinary Tribunal (SDT).

The Solicitors Regulation Authority (SRA) said Alex van der Zwaan would face allegations including “making false statements in an interview with the United States Special Counsel’s Office”, to which he had pleaded guilty.

The SRA stressed that the allegations were “as yet unproven”.

A federal judge in Washington sentenced Mr van der Zwaan in April 2018 to 30 days in jail and fined him $20,000 after accepting a plea deal. The maximum sentence was five years in prison and a $250,000 fine.

He was the fourth person to plead guilty in the Mueller probe, but the first to be formally sentenced. Mr Mueller’s final report this week found no collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia.

The solicitor was questioned by the FBI in relation to a report written by Skadden for Ukraine’s ministry of justice on the 2011 prosecution and trial of former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko.

As part of that, Skadden worked with Paul Manafort, Donald Trump’s former campaign manager, who was last year found guilty of fraud, and his business associate Rick Gates. Mr Gates has yet to be sentenced after reaching a plea deal.

Earlier this year, Skadden agreed to pay $4.6m (£3.5m) and register as a ‘foreign agent’ after admitting to misleading the US government over work done for Ukraine.

Mr van der Zwaan, a Dutch national, qualified and worked as a solicitor at the London office of US firm Skadden for a decade until he was fired in 2017.

According to the sentencing memorandum his lawyers submitted to the trial judge, Mr van der Zwaan was a “relatively junior” associate at the time and his primary role was to facilitate communication between the firm and its clients.

He admitted to lying about his last contact with Mr Gates and another person.

The memorandum did not seek to excuse his conduct but said there were “compelling mitigating factors”.

The SRA notice said he was currently working for Discreet Law, a law firm based in Mayfair.

Although Mr van der Zwaan, who was admitted in 2009, has a practising certificate, his main role is not specified on the Law Society’s database and a spokesman for the SRA confirmed he has not been working as a solicitor for Discreet Law.

Discreet Law, according to its website, manages clients’ legal affairs and instructs global industry experts, acting as general counsel. The firm has two partners and three other solicitors.

Mr van der Zwaan’s Law Society listing says he practises in commercial law, including banking and insolvency work, and speaks English, Russian and French.

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