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US drops criminal case against Russian company accused of election interference

Department of Justice. (Scott "Skippy"/Flickr)

This article was originally published by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and is reprinted with permission.

The United States has dropped its criminal case against a company controlled by a close associate of Russian President Vladimir Putin that allegedly funded an infamous social-media campaign to meddle in the 2016 presidential elections.

The Justice Department announced on March 16 that it was withdrawing the eight-count indictment of Concord Management and Consulting, a company owned by Yevgeny Prigozhin, a man dubbed “Putin’s chef,” to avoid disclosing investigative techniques to the Russians.

The United States had accused Concord Management of funding the Internet Research Agency, the St. Petersburg-based troll factory that pumped out disinformation on social media and created fake online accounts among other tactics with the aim of interfering in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and boosting then-candidate Donald Trump’s prospects.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller, who led the two-year U.S. investigation into Russian interference, filed the criminal complaint against Concord Management, Concord Catering, the Internet Research Agency, and 13 Russian individuals, including Prigozhin, in February 2018.

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Concord Management has used its legal rights to obtain information from the United States regarding the government’s efforts “to detect and deter foreign election interference” while ignoring all of its other obligations as a defendant, the Justice Department said in its filing to dismiss the case.

“The government has concluded that further proceedings as to Concord, a Russian company with no presence in the United States and no exposure to meaningful punishment in the event of a conviction, promotes neither the interests of justice nor the nation’s security,” it said.

The Justice Department is also seeking to drop the case against Concord Catering, another firm owned by Prigozhin, for the same reason, it said in the filing.