In a statement Wednesday that would have come as a shock two years ago, a close ally of the Kremlin said that his company — accused of funding Russia’s 2016 internet trolling — “has every intention of participating in the trial” that is set to start next week.
Russian oligarch Yevgeniy Prigozhin filed the declaration in court after prosecutors accused the company, Concord Management, of defying a subpoena and asked that a federal judge find the company in contempt in court.
At a hearing Monday on the request, prosecutor Adam Jed said that the Justice Department had “some concern about whether Concord is really participating in this case,” given its alleged issues in complying with the subpoena, and suggested it might “not be either possible or prudent to adhere to the current trial schedule.”
Prigozhin’s declaration shot back at the idea that his company might bail before the trial — which many legal observers have expected throughout the two years of proceedings since special counsel Robert Mueller unveiled the indictment.
“As to whether Concord is actively participating in this case, a question raised by the prosecutors at the March 2, 2020 hearing, I can assure the Court that Concord has gone to great lengths to participate in this case and has every intention of participating in the trial, appearing through our counsel as U.S. law provides,” Prigozhin said.
His declaration went into detail about what steps he supposedly took to try to produce the documents the subpoenas demanded. It started with an assurance that Concord Management’s attorneys “explained to me that giving false testimony in a court proceeding is a crime in the United States, and I affirm that the statements contained herein are truthful to the best of my knowledge.”
Prigozhin’s declaration was filed in Russian and his lawyers provided the court with an English translation. TPM independently confirmed the translation.
A grand jury indicted Prigozhin, his companies Concord Catering and Concord Management, and several Russian individuals for a conspiracy to defraud the U.S. Some of the individuals faced additional charges related to their alleged social media manipulation in the 2016 election.
When Mueller announced the indictment in Feb. 2018, few expected that the case would make it to the courtroom, given how unlikely it was that Russia would extradite the defendants for prosecution.
It was a surprise then when Concord Management lawyered up with American attorneys who entered an appearance on the docket that April. Prigozhin, a catering magnate who has earned the nickname “Putin’s chef,” has himself not submitted to the court’s jurisdiction.
Concord Management’s attorneys, meanwhile, have offered an extremely confrontational defense of the company, often lashing out at the prosecutors and even the judge.
Prigozhin on Wednesday provided several reasons for why his company did not produce the documents covered by the subpoenas. For instance, he claimed he did not become involved with the company until late Feb. 2018, after the period for which prosecutors were seeking his calendar entries. He also said that Concord Management has a policy of deleting emails every three months, while explaining why the company hadn’t produced the communications the prosecutors sought.
Potential jurors for the trial are scheduled to show up at court for the jury selection process on April 1, and the trial is expected to start in earnest the following week. In a joint filing earlier this week, Concord Management’s lawyers and the prosecutors said they estimated that the trial will last four weeks.
Read Prigozhin’s declaration below:
Josh Kovensky contributed reporting.