Federal prosecutors are investigating alleged ties between disgraced Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and a Russian intelligence firm.
According to Manhattan prosecutors, Weinstein had business dealing with Black Cube, a private Israeli intelligence firm that was used to spy on some of the women who accused Weinstein of sexual assault. According to the Treasury Department, Black Cube was used by the Kremlin to carry out cyberattacks against U.S. targets.
Nytimes.com reports: The inclusion of Mr. Weinstein’s ties to Black Cube added a previously unknown element to the inquiry and served to heighten the legal risks he was already facing. Black Cube’s involvement in the investigation was first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
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After a decades-long reign as a hitmaker in Hollywood, Mr. Weinstein was charged in May by the Manhattan district attorney’s office with raping one woman and forcing another to perform oral sex. Two months later, the same prosecutors brought new charges against him, saying he had forced a third woman to have sex with him. Mr. Weinstein has also been accused in a series of civil lawsuits of sexual and physical assault — and of waging smear campaigns against some of his accusers.
The federal investigation started last year when prosecutors from the United States attorney’s office in Manhattan began to examine whether Mr. Weinstein had committed fraud when he arranged for two auction items — a sitting with a fashion photographer and a package of tickets to a Hollywood awards event — to be offered together at an AIDS charity fund-raiser in France in May 2015. There was one condition to the deal, said people with knowledge of the matter: $600,000 of the proceeds had to go to a theater that had staged a trial run of a Broadway musical produced by Mr. Weinstein.
The investigation then expanded to include the possibility that Mr. Weinstein had broken federal stalking laws in his dealings with women who had accused him of sexual assault. Those laws forbid crossing state lines to kill, injure, harass or intimidate victims.
Black Cube, which was established in 2010 by former Israeli intelligence analysts, was thrust from the shadows in November when The New Yorker revealed that Mr. Weinstein had hired the firm through his former lawyer, David Boies, to look into the background of the actress Rose McGowan. She was writing a book about her experiences with Mr. Weinstein, including a claim that he had sexually assaulted her.
Lawyers routinely use private investigators to collect information to help them argue civil and criminal cases. Black Cube’s work for Mr. Weinstein, according to its contract, included the hiring of “an investigative journalist” who was meant to conduct numerous interviews as part of a scheme intended, in part, to block the publication of articles concerning Mr. Weinstein’s decades of alleged sexual misconduct.
Mr. Weinstein’s current lawyer, Benjamin Brafman, said in a statement on Thursday that he had met with the prosecutors conducting the investigation to “demonstrate that Black Cube was retained and supervised by prominent lawyers” who Mr. Weinstein thought “would never have authorized illegal activity.”
The statement added that “the sole objective” in hiring Black Cube “was to enable Mr. Weinstein to effectively defend himself through legal action from serious and patently false allegations.”
A spokesman for the United States attorney’s office declined to comment on the investigation. A spokeswoman for Mr. Boies said he was barred from commenting because of “considerable restrictions” placed on him by Mr. Brafman.