Trial begins of Giuliani associate linked to Trump-Ukraine scandal

Federal prosecutors have stated the trial will not produce new, damaging information about Trump or Giuliani

Bevan Hurley
Wednesday 13 October 2021 13:45
Lev Parnas: 'Trump knew exactly what was going on'

Jury selection began on Tuesday for the trial of Lev Parnas, a onetime associate of Rudy Giuliani who is accused along with a co-defendant of making illegal campaign contributions.

US prosecutors allege Mr Parnas, a Soviet-born Florida businessman, ingratiated himself with influential Republicans through big campaign contributions, including a $325,000 donation in 2018 to a super PAC supporting then-President Donald Trump.

An indictment said some of those donations were improperly funnelled through a company that Mr Parnas co-owned in ways that disguised the origin of the money and evaded limits on personal donations.

Mr Parnas initially came to public attention in 2019 as he assisted Giuliani’s effort to get the government of Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden, the son of then-presidential-candidate Joe Biden.

Mr Giuliani is not charged in the case and prosecutors haven’t alleged that he knew anything about illegal campaign contributions.

Lev Parnas was a close associate of Rudy Giuliani’s before the pair fell out

Mr Parnas and a co-defendant, Andrey Kukushkin, are also accused of arranging donations on behalf of a Russian financier, Andrey Muraviev, as part of an effort to expand his legal marijuana businesses in the United States. Prosecutors said Mr Muraviev put up $1 million dollars for the venture.

Mr Parnas and another Soviet-born Florida businessman who has already pleaded guilty in the case, Igor Fruman, initially caught the attention of journalists and investigators after making big donations through a corporate entity to Republican political committees, including a $325,000 donation in 2018 to America First Action, a super PAC supporting Trump.

The pair then became middlemen in Mr Giuliani’s effort to discredit then-candidate Joe Biden. They connected Mr Giuliani with Ukrainian officials as the former New York City mayor tried to get that country to open an investigation into the future president’s son, Hunter. Ukrainian tycoons and officials, meanwhile, sought Giuliani’s help connecting with the Trump administration.

Federal prosecutors in New York City, however, have made it clear that anyone looking for the trial to produce new, damaging information about Mr Trump or Mr Giuliani will be disappointed.

They told US District Judge Paul Oetken last week that while jurors will likely hear about how Mr Parnas and Mr Fruman tried to tout their influence as international fixers by sharing photos of themselves with Trump and Giuliani, the Republican ex-president and his former personal lawyer “will come up very peripherally” at the trial.

Associated Press contributed to this report