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US judge considers contempt charge against Russian-controlled firm

President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with Russian Defence Ministry top officials and representatives of the Russian Defense Industry, at Bocharov Ruchei residence. (Klimentyev Mikhail/TASS /ZUMA Press/TNS)

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

A federal judge says she is considering whether to hold a company reportedly controlled by Kremlin-linked Russian financier Yevgeny Prigozhin in contempt for ignoring court orders.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich on February 27 gave lawyers for the firm Concord Management and Consulting until the end of February 28 to explain why their client should not face a civil penalty for missing a deadline to produce documents.

Washington last year imposed sanctions on several entities and people associated with the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and Prigozhin, its financier, in connection with Russian interference in U.S. elections.

The IRA, a St. Petersburg-based organization known as the Russian “troll farm,” was mentioned repeatedly by U.S. Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election.

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In February 2018, the Justice Department indicted the IRA and Concord Management and Consulting and Concord Catering as well as Prigozhin himself and 15 other Russian individuals for alleged fraud “for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.”

Concord was charged with conspiracy to defraud the United States for its role in election meddling aimed at sowing discord in the United States, helping Republican candidate Donald Trump, and harming his Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Prigozhin has been nicknamed “Putin’s chef” by Russian media because of the elaborate banquets he has organized for President Vladimir Putin.

He also controls the Vagner private security firm, which has sent Russian mercenaries to fight in Ukraine, Syria, and several African countries.

Prosecutors have asked the judge to hold Concord Management and Consulting LLC in contempt for defying subpoenas for information related to the case, such as corporate registration records, company internet IP addresses, and files relating to its officers.

The judge ordered company representatives to appear in court on March 2 for a contempt hearing.

Concord has several times unsuccessfully attempted to have the charges dismissed.

Concord’s trial is scheduled to begin with a jury selection hearing on April 1.

After months of investigation, Mueller documented election interference by Russia but said he did not find sufficient evidence to demonstrate a criminal conspiracy between Trump’s campaign and Moscow.

The Concord case is one of the last remaining cases related to Mueller’s probe.