Republican donors who helped Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani in Ukraine arrested over campaign finance violations

Both men are reported to have helped Mr Giuliani meet current and former Ukrainian prosecutors in relation to Joe Biden

Clark Mindock
New York
,Vincent Wood
Thursday 10 October 2019 15:57
Comments
Giuliani: 'The whistleblower falsely alleges that I was operating on my own. Well, I wasn't operating on my own'

Two Republican donors who reportedly have ties to Rudy Giuliani‘s dealings in Ukraine have been arrested on campaign finance charges, according to the US Southern District Court in New York.

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested at Washington Dulles International Airport on Wednesday night with two one-way international tickets, just hours after reportedly meeting for lunch with Mr Giuliani in Washington. They now face federal accusations that they worked to “funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office”, lied to the Federal Election Committee (FEC), and set up a shell corporation to hide the true source of campaign contributions to top Republican committees.

Campaign finance laws exist for a reason. The American people expect and deserve an election process that has not been corrupted by the influence of foreign interest, and the public has a right to know the true source of campaign contributions,” William Sweeney Jr, the assistant director in charge of the US office, said during a press conference on Thursday.

Mr Sweeney said two other individuals were named in charging documents, Andrey Kukushkin – who had been arrested in San Francisco – as well as David Correia, who was not in federal custody when Mr Parnas and Mr Fruman were arrested.

“This investigation is about corrupt behaviour. Deliberate law breaking,” Mr Sweeney said.

Court documents allege that Mr Parnas and Mr Fruman first began attending political fundraising events in March 2018, and began making “substantial contributions” with the aim of “enhancing their influence in political circles and gaining access to politicians”.

To do so, the two used wire transfers from a corporate entity – Global Energy Producers (GEP) – that they had created in order to hide their tracks, including a $325,000 (£261,000) donation to the America First Action committee, a super PAC that supports Donald Trump. In addition to supporting the president, that super PAC spent heavily during the 2018 election to prop up former congressman Pete Sessions, who had posed with Mr Parnas and Mr Fruman just days before he sent a letter to secretary of state Mike Pompeo, questioning the fitness of US ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch. Mr Trump later badmouthed Ms Yovanovitch during a 25 July call with the president of Ukraine, Volodymyr Zelensky, notorious now for him asking for an investigation into the Biden family.

(Alexandria Sheriff's Office/Reuters) Igor Fruman, left, and Lev Parnas in booking photos taken following their arrest

The funds for GEP allegedly came directly from a private lending agreement between Mr Fruman and foreign sources. In addition to the GEP spending, Mr Parnas is identified in court as giving the maximum amount allowed to “Congressman-1”, and pushing for the removal of Ms Yovanovitch.

Mr Giuliani and John Dowd, the lawyer for the two men, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

President Trump, who has been pictured with the men, said he knew nothing about the case. He said: “We have nothing to do with it.”

Mr Parnas, a Ukrainian-born businessman and Mr Fruman, a Belarus-born real estate investor, have both become embroiled in the impeachment hearing of Donald Trump – with the House of Representatives seeking both men’s testimonies in relation to the president’s dealings with Ukraine. Both are US citizens.

Both men are reported to have helped Mr Giuliani meet current and former Ukrainian prosecutors to discuss allegations against Joe Biden and his son, Hunter.

Mr Giuliani is said to have identified the two men as his clients in May. Earlier that month images shared on Facebook show the pair meeting with the president, as well as his son Donald Trump Jr, in separate meetings in the US capital.

Meanwhile Mr Giuliani and Mr Parnas were photographed together in September after a meeting in the Trump International Hotel in Washington.

Mr Giuliani has become increasingly caught up in the impeachment scandal surrounding Mr Trump over his dealings with Ukraine, after he was found to have been involved in interactions between Kiev and Washington despite not holding an official role in the president’s administration.​ In repeated appearances on national television, Mr Giuliani has not backed away from his role serving the president’s interests abroad, even though he is not an employee of the federal government and there is little oversight of his efforts on behalf of the American people (he claims he has text messages that prove the State Department is aware of his actions).

Mr Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani has coffee with Ukrainian-American businessman Lev Parnas (REUTERS)

The inquiry centres around whether the president applied inappropriate pressure on Mr Zelensky to force him into investigating his political rival Mr Biden.

The president and his lawyer have repeatedly claimed the former vice president pressured the government of Ukraine to sack the nation’s prosecutor general, on the grounds that he was supposedly investigating a company which had his son on the board. At the time, however, Mr Biden was acting on behalf of the Obama administration’s official position that the prosecutor should be removed because he was seen to have been impeding anti-corruption efforts. Several international allies agreed with that conclusion.

No credible proof has yet been provided to support the claims against the 2020 presidential candidate, or that his son had done anything illegal.

It comes after both Mr Parnas and Mr Fruman were named among a group of businessmen and donors working to install new management at the top of the former-Soviet country’s vast state gas company – Naftogaz.

Their plan was to reportedly then steer contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, according to two sources with knowledge of the plans who spoke to the Associated Press.

They were also said to be supported by by US energy secretary Rick Perry, whose slate of candidates included a fellow Texan who is one of Perry’s past political donors.

There is no allegation the groups’s actions were linked to any illegal activity.

During the same period they were pursuing the Naftogaz deal, the two were also coordinating with Mr Giuliani to set up meetings with Ukrainian government officials and push for an investigation of the Bidens.

Additional reporting by AP.

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