The firm headed by "Putin's chef" Yevgeniy Prigozhin faced trial April 6 after being accused of defrauding the U.S. government in a social media campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
Prosecutors dropped the case against Concord Management and Consulting on Monday, citing unspecified changes since a grand jury indictment two years ago.
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The Justice Department on Monday dropped its two-year-long prosecution of a Russian company charged with conspiring to defraud the U.S. government by orchestrating a social media campaign to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.
The stunning reversal came a few weeks before the case — a spinoff of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s probe — was set to go to trial.
Assistants to U.S. Attorney Timothy Shea of Washington and Assistant Attorney General for National Security John C. Demers cited an unspecified “change in the balance of the government’s proof due to a classification determination,” according to a nine-page filing accompanied by facts under seal.
Prosecutors also cited the failure of the company, Concord Management and Consulting, to comply with trial subpoenas and the submission of a “misleading, at best” affidavit by Yevgeniy Prigozhin, a co-defendant and the company’s founder. Prigozhin is a catering magnate and military contractor known as “Putin’s chef” because of his ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
“Upon careful consideration of all of the circumstances, and particularly in light of recent events . . . the government has concluded that further proceedings as to Concord . . . promotes neither the interests of justice nor the nation’s security,” federal prosecutors wrote.
“The better course is to cease litigation” against Concord and a sister catering company, also owned by Prigozhin, the prosecutors said. The government added that Concord enjoys “immunity from just punishment” even if found guilty, since it has no business presence in the United States.
The after-business-hours government request to dismiss — granted by U.S. District Judge Dabney L. Friedrich — brings an abrupt end to a case that was set to go to trial April 6.
The Concord companies were among 13 individuals and three businesses indicted in the special counsel’s investigation in February 2018 for allegedly carrying out a long-running scheme to criminally interfere with the 2016 election. Concord Management, accused of funding the effort, is the only defendant to appear in U.S. court.
Concord lead attorney Eric A. Dubelier said that the United States sought an indictment “to make a political statement regarding the outcome of the 2016 election that was grossly overstated.”
“The government’s evidence was completely devoid of any information that could establish that the defendants knew what they were doing was in violation of highly complex U.S. laws and regulations,” Dubelier said. “This was a make-believe charge to fit the facts solely for political purposes.”