Major suspect in Russian company hacking attended meeting with Trump Jr.

But in November 2015, IMR filed papers in the New York Supreme Court charging the ex-Soviet officer with leading the hack.
By Paul Pate | Jul 18, 2017
A former Soviet officer who has faced charges in U.S. federal and state courts of orchestrating an international hacking conspiracy was present at Donald Trump Jr. and associates' meeting with the Russian attorney who had promised damaging information on Hillary Clinton. The officer, Rinat Akhmetshin, told the Associated Press on Friday that he accompanied Russian attorney Natalia Veselnitskaya at the June 9 meeting with Trump Jr., Jared Kushner, and Paul Manafort, Donald Trump's then-campaign manager, an admission that further field speculation of the Trump campaign's suspected collusion with Russia.

Veselnitskaya had hired Akhmetshin to help with pro-Russia lobbying efforts in Washington. Akhmetsin subsequently accepted a $140,000 contract from a New York law firm to organize a public-relations campaign against the Russian mining company International Mineral Resources (IMR). Shortly after, IMR suffered a major breach of its computer networks and the theft of gigabytes of sensitive data.

But in November 2015, IMR filed papers in the New York Supreme Court charging the ex-Soviet officer with leading the hack. IMR later withdrew the allegations, but Akhmetsin admitted to passing around a hard drive filled with data on IMR's owners.

A private eye hired by IMR tracked down a copy of this hard drive and found gigabytes of private files that had been stolen in the intrusion. When a computer-forensics expert examined the copy, he found metadata indicating that the last user to open some of the files had the initials "RA."

The private eye, Akis Phanartzis, wrote in a sworn declaration to the New York Supreme Court that he had eavesdropped on Akhmetshin in a coffee shop. On this occasion, he said he heard Akhmetshin boasting aloud of organizing the hack of IMR.

"Mr. Akhmetshin [noted] that he was hired because there were certain things that the law firm could not do," Phanartzis said.

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