Paul Manafort. Photo: Mark Wilson / Getty Images

Alex van der Zwaan, who was charged in Special Counsel Bob Mueller's probe Friday with making false statements to the FBI, has ties to former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and his business partner, Rick Gates.

The links: According to the New York Times, Manafort arranged five years ago for a New York-based law firm to draft a report on how Manafort's client, former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych, was justified in his prosecution of former Ukrainian Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. Manafort was tasked with recruiting van der Zwaan to write that report, and van der Zwaan worked for Skadden at the time it was drafting the report, per Bloomberg.

  • Note: At the time, critics said the prosecution of Tymoshenko was based on political motives and without sufficient evidence.

Why it matters, per the NYT: "The request comes at a time when Mr. Manafort, his work for Mr. Yanukovych’s party and for Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs as well as the handling of payments for that work have become focal points" in Mueller's Russia probe.

Other details, as outlined in the NYT:

  • In 2012, the Justice Department began requesting information about Skadden’s Ukrainian work. The requests "came after Ukrainian prosecutors asked their American counterparts for assistance in pursuing an inquiry into alleged illegal spending by Mr. Yanukovych’s government."
  • "That inquiry included payments to Skadden, though the Ukrainians have not accused the firm of any crime."
  • "The Ukrainians nonetheless requested that the Justice Department question Mr. Manafort and Skadden’s lead lawyer on the case, Gregory B. Craig, who had served as President Barack Obama’s White House counsel."
  • Less than a year after the report was filed, Yanukovych fled Ukraine.
  • Ukraine's general prosecutor's office requested the FBI and DOJ in the U.S. aid in investigating Yanukovych's justice minister, Oleksandr Lavrynovych, although "neither the Justice Department nor the F.B.I. had responded to the requests as recently as March" last year.

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