- - Tuesday, January 15, 2019

BANGKOK — A jailed Belarusian model and her Russian lover, who claimed to have audio of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort discussing U.S. electoral strategy with high-placed Russian figures, were found guilty Tuesday of sex crimes and will be deported.

After the couple’s arrest in February 2018 near Bangkok, Anastasia Vashukevich — who calls herself Nastya Rybka — attracted international attention when she claimed she and partner Alexander Kirillov had secretly recorded the scandalous audio when she was Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska’s “mistress” in 2016 and 2017.

Thai authorities detained the couple for conducting a weeklong seminar that officials said offered sleazy seduction techniques to foreign men and women who paid $700 each.

After her arrest in Pattaya, Thailand’s infamously hedonistic beach resort, Ms. Vashukevich posted a video online while inside a prison vehicle, pleading with “friends, American press” for help. She claimed the couple secretly recorded “Manafort and Trump and all that buzz around the U.S. elections.”

Mr. Deripaska, a metals magnate and one of Russia’s richest men, is close to President Vladimir Putin and was seen as a possible link in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and Mr. Trump’s campaign. Manafort was targeted by special counsel Robert Mueller and convicted last year of tax and bank fraud.

The State Department, FBI and U.S. Embassy here scrambled to determine the veracity of purported recordings of Manafort meeting Russians. No evidence was made public, and many investigators dismissed the couple as unreliable.

Ms. Vashukevich said the couple feared being killed in jail or Russia after deportation because of their knowledge.

A lawyer representing Ms. Vashukevich told The Associated Press that she and seven co-defendants were given suspended 18-month prison terms, waived in view of nine months already served since the charges of soliciting and conspiracy were filed against them.

They were initially sentenced Tuesday by the court in Pattaya to three-year prison terms, but their sentences were halved because they pleaded guilty, a standard procedure in Thai trials. The soliciting charge carried a maximum prison term of 10 years, and conspiracy a maximum penalty of seven years, the AP reported.

“I will coordinate with the Russian government for their deportation, which will likely take one week,” said Maj. Gen. Surachate Hakparn, chief of immigration police. “They are blacklisted from Thailand permanently for conducting bad deeds.”

Mr. Kirillov, also known as Alex Lesley, and most of the other defendants are Russians. It was unclear whether Ms. Vashukevich would be sent to her home country of Belarus.

Ms. Vashukevich posted photos on Instagram supposedly showing herself with Mr. Deripaska on his yacht near Norway in 2016, alongside Russian Deputy Prime Minister Sergei Prikhodko. The slender 20-something added sexy selfies and identified herself as “Deripaska’s mistress.”

She also figured prominently in a muckraking video produced by Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny, a leading critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mr. Deripaska employed Manafort’s lobbying and consulting firm for at least several years starting in 2005.

Mr. Deripaska convinced a Russian court that Mr. Navalny’s video contained “outrageous, false allegations.”

Russia’s internet censor demanded its removal.

Instagram deleted Mr. Navalny’s video and some of Ms. Vashukevich’s posts, but the video remained on YouTube.

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