US Senate report uncovers Louis Freeh's connections with Russia authorities

Martin Helme and Louis Freeh at the press conference on July 3.
Martin Helme and Louis Freeh at the press conference on July 3. Source: Siim Lõvi/ERR

Louis Freeh, former FBI director and leader of the American law firm Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan - hired to provide legal services to the Estonian state in international money laundering investigations - had several contacts with Russian authorities and a company involved with money laundering, as stated in an United States Senate report.

On July 3, ERR News wrote that finance minister Martin Helme had entered into an agreement with United States law firm Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan LLP to provide legal services to the Estonian state in international money laundering investigations.

Helme said at a press conference the fee for the contract with the law firm is €3 million for two years. The terms of the agreement have not been made public.

An investigative piece published by daily Eesti Päevaleht (link in Estonian) on July 28 made the claim that lawyer Louis Freeh - a former FBI director - had previously represented Russian company Prevezon, which had allegedly laundered around €6 million via the now-defunct Estonian branch of Danske Bank.

Helme rejected EPL's claims, calling the article slanderous. He added that the agreement brought a front-rank U.S. law firm, which has also worked with the U.S. government, and with experience in international financial crime representation, on board for Estonia.

In the close to 1,000-page report drawn up by the select committee on intelligence of the U.S. Senate, a heavy focus is put on how the Russian state could have meddled in the elections held in the United States in 2016, portal Delfi (link in Estonian) reported on August 19.

Among other things, the Senate report states that the campaign team of President Donald Trump had many contacts with Kremlin officials and at least one representative of Russian intelligence operations, as reported by The New York Times.

Freeh reportedly was in contact with former Prosecutor General of Russia Yury Chaika, former Deputy Attorney General Pyotr Katsyv, oligarch Vasily Anisimov and American businessman Imre Pakh. The latter two have previously been suspected in having criminal ties to the Russian underworld.

In their meetings, the men discussed the so-called Magnitsky Act, a bipartisan bill passed by the U.S. Congress and signed into law by President Barack Obama in December 2012, which intends to punish Russian officials responsible for the death of Russian tax lawyer Sergei Magnitsky in a Moscow prison in 2009 by establishing extensive sanctions against Russian officials.

As of the report, Russian officials had recommended Freeh communicate with Russian lawyer Natalya Veselnitskaya, who was considered "one of them". Veselnitskaya represented Russian company Prevezon, managed by the son of formerly mentioned Pyotr Katsyv.

The United States Government accused Prevezon Holdings of laundering money for Russian officials in the amount of $230 million. The case was settled with the U.S. Department of Justice, resulting in Prevezon being fined $5.9 million.

The heavily scrutinized deal has led to Riigikogu select committees on anti-corruption and budget control to congregate on multiple occasions to assess the legitimacy of the deal signed by Helme and Freeh.

Freeh has since left Freeh, Sporkin & Sullivan but confirmed that he will remain at full capacity to honor the contract signed with the Estonian state to represent it in money laundering investigations.


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Editor: Kristjan Kallaste

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