- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Russian businessman Yevgeny Prigozhin threatened Tuesday to sue the U.S. government for $50 billion after federal prosecutors dropped their criminal case against his companies.

Mr. Prigozhin, known as “Putin’s chef” for his close ties to the Russian president, said he is preparing to sue the U.S. for “unlawful prosecution” in light of the Department of Justice asking a D.C. federal court judge Monday to dismiss the charges brought against his companies Concord Management and Consulting LLC and Concord Catering.

Indicted as a result of the government’s investigation into Russian involvement in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, both companies owned by Mr. Prigozhin had been accused of participating in a conspiracy to interfere in the American political and electoral process.

But weeks before the case was set to go to trial, federal prosecutors filed a motion Monday asking the court to dismiss the single count of conspiracy to defraud the U.S. brought against both Concord companies.

“Upon careful consideration of all of the circumstances, and particularly in light of recent events and a change in the balance of the government’s proof due to a classification determination, as well as other facts described in more detail in a classified addendum to this motion, the government has concluded that further proceedings as to Concord, a Russian company with no presence in the United States and no exposure to meaningful punishment in the event of a conviction, promotes neither the interests of justice nor the nation’s security,” the prosecutors wrote.

U.S. District Judge Dabney Friedrich granted the government’s request later Monday.

In a statement posted Tuesday by Concord on VK, a Russian social networking service, Mr. Prigozhin argued the prosecution’s decision means claims that Russian interfered in the 2016 race are “lies and fiction.”

“I believe that the trial between Concord and the U.S. government is not over,” Mr. Prigozhin said in Russian. “Currently, a Concord v. USA lawsuit is being prepared for unlawful prosecution and sanctions of $50 billion.”

The Justice Department has not abandoned the Russian meddling case entirely, however. The indictment filed against both Concord companies also charged Mr. Prigozhin and a dozen other Russians in connection with allegedly interfering in the 2016 race, and prosecutors said Monday that the U.S. “will continue its efforts to apprehend the individual defendants and bring them before this Court to face the pending charges.”

Prosecutors have alleged that Russian social media users employed by the Internet Research Agency, a “troll farm” funded by Mr. Prigozhin and the companies he controls, interfered in the 2016 race in part by spreading politically charged information on platforms including Facebook and Twitter, among others.

Several members of President Trump’s administration has since warned that Russia and other adversaries are likely to make similar attempts during the 2020 elections.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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