18

Conservative author Dinesh D'Souza just tweeted this:

Is Mueller this dumb? Or does he think the press is too dumb to notice he indicted a Russian company that doesn’t even exist?

This is a reference to the company Concord Catering, which special counsel Robert Mueller indicted as part of the Trump-Russia investigation. You see, in a court hearing on Wednesday, Eric Dubelier, the lawyer for the affiliated company Concord Management, claimed that Concord Catering did not even exist at the time of the activity they're being indicted for:

I think we're dealing with a situation of the government having indicted the proverbial ham sandwich. That company didn't exist as a legal entity during the time alleged by the government.

My question is, are D'Souza and Debalier right that Mueller indicted a company that didn't exist for the time period he's indicting them for?

  • 7
    Isn't this part of an ongoing legal case? – DJClayworth May 14 '18 at 0:41
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    @DJClayworth Technically only if the answer is "Yes." And regardless of the status of the subsequent case, either Mueller has filed an indictment or he hasn't, the claim's truth can't change. – Kevin May 14 '18 at 16:34
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    No, there is an ongoing case. Part of the case may be to decide if Concord catering was a suable entity at the time. Which means the answer to the question might change depending on the decision. – DJClayworth May 14 '18 at 16:40
  • The idea that an organization ceases to exist when changing names is silly. Most companies still recognize their old names long after they are rebranded due to merger, acquisition, or restructuring. For example "Bailey Network Management" has long been bought by ABB, and now shows as an ABB division. It still accepts money under the old name, but only because ABB maintains a "Doing Business As" registration. People like using it because it differentiates who they were doing business with, as ABB is a big company doing a lot more. – Edwin Buck Jun 5 '18 at 12:05
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    @EdwinBuck as a matter of law such companies generally do in fact cease to.exist, but the acquiring company assumes their assets and liabilities. So indicting the defunct company isn't as meaningless as some would have us believe. – phoog Dec 31 '18 at 7:08
43

Concord Catering has existed, in some form, since at least 1996.


The website for Concord Catering is http://concord-catering.ru/.

WHOIS lookups, which track when website domains are registered, have data on the domain for Concord Catering.

The NIC, on their .ru domain lookup, has concord-catering.ru registered since 1998.

domain:CONCORD-CATERING.RU
nserver:ns1.masterhost.ru.
nserver:ns2.masterhost.ru.
nserver:ns.masterhost.ru.
state:REGISTERED, DELEGATED, VERIFIED
org:"Concord Management and Consulting" ltd.
registrar:R01-RU
admin-contact:https://partner.r01.ru/contact_admin.khtml
created:1998-02-05T21:01:16Z
paid-till:2019-02-28T21:00:00Z
free-date:2019-04-01
source:TCI
Last updated on 2018-05-17T15:46:35Z

We can see, from the whois, that the domain

  1. Was created in 1998 (see 'created' line) and has been maintained since then

  2. Is under the organization of "Concord Management and Consulting" ltd. (see 'org' line)

Web Solutions concurs with this claim, having a create date on the domain registry of 1998-02-05T21:01:16Z (5 February 1998 21:01:16 GMT).


In addition, the Internet Wayback Archive has been snapshotting the page since 1998, its first entry on 5 December 1998.


From their about us page on the site, the company claims that their establishment year is 1996.

Original text:

1996 год основания компании

Более 20 лет наши клиенты получают всё самое лучшее и совершенное. ...

and translated from Russian (with thanks to @Sashkello):

1996 - the year of company establishment

For more than 20 years our clients have been receiving all the very best and impeccable. ...


The implicit claim made by the lawyer, and by extension D'Souza, is that they didn't exist when the alleged activity occurred, thus it's a bullshit indictment. However, their own website, and registration data for their domain, proves that the company has been in business since the mid-to-late 90s. The lawyer could be doing all sorts of tricks to make it appear like the company didn't exist, and this "legal entity" argument could be along those lines, but that doesn't change the fact that Concord Catering has been in business for 20+ years.

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    The implicit claim made by the laywer, and by extension D'Souza, is that they didn't exist when the alleged activity occurred, thus it's a bullshit indictment. My answer proves that they've existed and have been in business in some form since at least the late 90s. The lawyer could be doing all sorts of tricks to make it appear like the company didn't exist, and this "legal entity" argument could be along those lines, but that doesn't change the fact that Concord Catering has been in business for 20+ years. – DenisS May 14 '18 at 16:23
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    Their "about" section mentions 1996 as the company establishment year: concord-catering.ru/pages/about.html – sashkello May 15 '18 at 2:51
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    @sashkello if you, or anyone else, could edit that into the answer I'd appreciate it. The website is blocked for me. – DenisS May 15 '18 at 13:49
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    @DenisStallings Added the relevant part from their webpage. While my English is a bit awkward at times, the original Russian piece sounds a bit off in the first place, so I did my best... – sashkello May 16 '18 at 1:19
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    Nice sleuthing. Best of all, it’s trivially verifiable so it’s acceptable here despite being borderline “original research”. – Konrad Rudolph May 22 '18 at 19:51
13

This claim does not appear to be accurate.

It appears the indictment is for actions from 2014 - to "present" (then 02/16/18):

Defendant INTERNET RESEARCH AGENCY LLC (“ORGANIZATION”) is a Russian organization engaged in operations to interfere with elections and political processes. Defendants MIKHAIL IVANOVICH BYSTROV, MIKHAIL LEONIDOVICH BURCHIK, ALEKSANDRA YURYEVNA KRYLOVA, ANNA VLADISLAVOVNA BOGACHEVA, SERGEY PAVLOVICH POLOZOV, MARIA ANATOLYEVNA BOVDA, ROBERT SERGEYEVICH BOVDA, DZHEYKHUN NASIMI OGLY ASLANOV, VADIM VLADIMIROVICH PODKOPAEV, GLEB IGOREVICH VASILCHENKO, IRINA VIKTOROVNA KAVERZINA, and VLADIMIR VENKOV worked in various capacities to carry out Defendant ORGANIZATION’s interference operations targeting the United States. From in or around 2014 to the present, Defendants knowingly and intentionally conspired with each other (and with persons known and unknown to the Grand Jury) to defraud the United States by impairing, obstructing, and defeating the lawful functions of the government through fraud and deceit for the purpose of interfering with the U.S. political and electoral processes, including the presidential election of 2016.

Beginning as early as 2014, Defendant ORGANIZATION began operations to interfere with the U.S. political system, including the 2016 U.S. presidential election. Defendant ORGANIZATION received funding for its operations from Defendant YEVGENIY VIKTOROVICH PRIGOZHIN and companies he controlled, including Defendants CONCORD MANAGEMENT AND CONSULTING LLC and CONCORD CATERING (collectively “CONCORD”). Defendants CONCORD and PRIGOZHIN spent significant funds to further the ORGANIZATION’s operations and to pay the remaining Defendants, along with other uncharged ORGANIZATION employees, salaries and bonuses for their work at the ORGANIZATION.

According to Wikipedia Concord Management and Consulting is the parent company of Concord Catering, and Concord Management and Consulting has been around since 1995 (a point the lawyer did not dispute). It's not just Concord Catering being indicted, but the collectively whole Concord group.

It's not clear to me when Concord Catering itself was technically a legal entity, or if that's even a significant distinction, but the Wikipedia article on Concord Management and Consulting cites this article suggesting it existed in 2017 which falls in that time frame (although it does not explicitly name it Concord Catering). As pointed out in another answer, even their own website claim they have been around since 1996.

  • 1
    your last link doesn't mention Concord Catering at all, it's about the Concord Management and Consulting LLC. – Mad Scientist May 14 '18 at 7:42
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    @MadScientist Not explicitly it seems, but Wikipedia references the article in relation to Concord Catering. I clarified. – Alexander O'Mara May 14 '18 at 15:42
  • You should be able to get articles of incorporation, or other filings if a different corporate form is chosen, from the US state in which it was filed. And or a DBA. Wikipedia is a terrible resource. Also, the question is does it exist today, not in 1995 (although that might be wording). Suggestion is pretty inconclusive proof. I cannot tell if you are using the indictment as proof or backstory. That's just quoting Mueller in effect. – K Dog May 16 '18 at 19:53
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    @KDog The quotes clarify what time frame, and who is collectively indicted. It's not just concord catering, but collectively the concord group, something those with an anti-Mueller agenda no-doubt intentionally neglected to mention. Also, the question is not if it existed today, but in the ~4 year time frame, for which the answer is yes. – Alexander O'Mara May 16 '18 at 20:34
  • I see. I would change your since 1995 statement to include, maybe to present? That the indictment says it is meaningless. The OP's claim is about Concord Catering, but I'm not exactly sure this is what D'Souza is claiming. I would say based upon your analysis the OP's claim is technically correct. – K Dog May 17 '18 at 12:49
-3

Its website still existed on February 17th of 2018.

Here's the archive.org capture of the "about" page from that day.

Having a DNS record doesn't do much to prove that the actual company existed. However, having an active website in 2018 does much more to prove it. It shows the company's website was actively maintained during the period during which the lawyer claimed it didn't exist.

The fact that it was registered in 1998 doesn't mean that a business existed in 2016. The fact that the website had an active ABOUT page in 2018 does prove it.

By the way, it is known that the company is a Russian company, so presumably its non-English parts are in Russian. But that, of course, has no bearing on whether the website existed or not.

To sum up, the website seemed to exist at the time D'Souza made the statement. And it seemed to exist long before the 2016 election.

  • 1
    Welcome to Skeptics! This is in Russian and in images that can't be Google translated. If there is some content in here that shows that makes this an answer, you will need to translate it. (See also the existing answer that already does this.) – Oddthinking Jun 4 '18 at 11:37
  • @Oddthinking, I am not sure how things are in "your neck of the woods", so to speak, but where I come from, people get disgusted when others tell them what they should or should not do. I am only mentioning this because I would rather keep this discourse civil. – grovkin Jun 4 '18 at 22:44
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    @grovkin: Thanks for explaining a little but about your culture. I was explaining a little bit about the culture in this neck of the woods - Skeptics.SE. You can do what you want, but your answer is earning you downvotes, a critical comment or two and multiple flags for deletion, so if you don't like the advice you might find your content gets deleted. – Oddthinking Jun 5 '18 at 3:03
  • Thank you for clarifying your argument. It agree it demonstrates that the web-site existed in Feb 2018. I am not clear if that answers the question. (1) Did it exist during the period mentioned in the indictments? (2) Did it exist at the time of the alleged crimes? – Oddthinking Jun 5 '18 at 3:11
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    @Oddthinking, well, I thought it was clear that it began operating around 1998 from the fact that they registered the website. What wasn't clear to me, until I saw that the website still existed in 2018, was whether the company was still in business in 2016 (during the election). It appears that it was. – grovkin Jun 5 '18 at 4:47

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