Monday 16 July 2018

Thirteen Russian nationals charged in US election probe

Charges include conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein announces the charges in Washington (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)
Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein announces the charges in Washington (Jacquelyn Martin/AP)

By Associated Press Reporters

A US grand jury has charged 13 Russian nationals and three Russian entities, the office of special counsel Robert Mueller has said.

The defendants are accused of violating US criminal laws to interfere with American elections and the political process.

Charges include conspiracy, wire fraud, bank fraud and aggravated identity theft.

The indictment alleges that Russians used bogus social media postings and advertisements fraudulently purchased in the name of Americans to sway political opinion during the race between Republican Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, his Democratic opponent.

The charges are the most direct allegation to date of illegal Russian meddling in the election.

The goal, the indictment says, was to “sow discord in the US political system, including the 2016 presidential election”.

The charges arise from Mr Mueller’s investigation into Russian interference in the election and whether there was improper co-ordination between the Trump campaign and the Kremlin.

Before Friday, four people, including Mr Trump’s former national security adviser and former campaign chairman, had been charged in Mr Mueller’s investigation.

The White House had no immediate response to the indictment.

Deputy attorney general Rod Rosenstein said the goal of 13 Russians and three Russian entities was “spreading distrust” of 2016 candidates and the political system.

He said the new indictment does not allege that Russian meddling altered the outcome of the election.

A California man has pleaded guilty to unwittingly selling bank accounts to Russians meddling in the US elections.

Richard Pinedo of Santa Paula pleaded guilty earlier this month to using stolen identities to set up bank accounts that were then used by the Russians.

A US justice department spokeswoman said Pinedo did not know at the time he was dealing with Russians.

The plea deal is the third in special counsel Mr Mueller’s continuing Russia probe.

Press Association

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