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Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were arrested on charges including conspiracy, making false statements and falsifying records

Two associates of Donald Trumps personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, have been charged with election finance violations for channeling foreign money into the presidents campaign.

Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, both Soviet-born Americans who are under scrutiny in congressional impeachment proceedings, were arrested on Wednesday night at Dulles airport outside Washington, where prosecutors said they had one-way tickets to leave the country. They face four charges including conspiracy, making false statements and falsifying records.

On Thursday, they appeared in federal court in Virginia where prosecutors argued they were a flight risk. The judge set bail at $1m each, and ordered them kept in custody until they met a set of conditions, including handing over their passports.

They are alleged to have channeled $325,000 (260,000) to a pro-Trump political action committee, America First Action, through a straw, or front, company set up to disguise the true origin of the funds, which were from a person identified in the indictment as Foreign National-1. Altogether, they funneled between $1m and $2m into the US political system.

The foreigner is not identified, but the indictment said the donation was for the purpose of gaining influence with politicians so as to advance their own personal financial interests and the political interests of Ukrainian government officials, including at least one Ukrainian government official with whom they were working.

The money certainly bought access. Both Parnas, who was born in Ukraine, and Fruman, who is originally from Belarus, were photographed with Trump, the presidents son Donald Trump Jr and the vice-president, Mike Pence.

I dont know those gentlemen … I dont know what they do, Trump told reporters. Maybe you will have to ask Rudy.

The booking photos of Lev Parnas, left, and Igor Fruman, right, provided by the Alexandria sheriffs office. Photograph: AP

The two men were also involved in helping Giuliani in an effort to gather compromising material on Trumps potential challenger for the presidency, Joe Biden. Parnas was with Giuliani when he met the former special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, in July, to discuss persuading the incoming Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, to investigate the Bidens.

Their attorney, John Dowd, another former Trump lawyer, said on Monday they would not comply with congressional demands to turn over documents and give depositions to the House committees investigating whether Trump abused his office in the pursuit of damaging information about the Bidens.

Dowd previously represented Trump in Robert Muellers investigation into Russian influence in the 2016 presidential election.

The House committees issued subpoenas to Parnas and Fruman on Thursday for their documents and depositions.

Neither Giuliani nor the effort to discredit Biden are mentioned in the indictment, but it does give details of a political donation to an unnamed congressman in 2018, whose help they sought in seeking to oust the then US ambassador to Kyiv, Marie Yovanovitch, who was putting pressure on the Ukrainian government at the time to tackle corruption.

The description of the congressman matches Pete Sessions, a former Republican representative from Texas, who met Parnas and Fruman in May and wrote a letter on 9 May to the secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, demanding Yovanovitchs removal, claiming concrete evidence from close companions that Ambassador Yovanovitch has spoken privately and repeatedly about her disdain for the current administration.

Parnass efforts to remove the ambassador were conducted at least in part at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials, the indictment said.

Yovanovitch was ousted in May, before she had completed her posting. Parnas and Fruman had predicted her removal and reportedly boasted they were working with Giuliani to bring it about.

The indictment also alleges Parnas and Fruman, with two other named defendants, sought to use foreign money to buy influence to help an abortive business venture to grow recreational marijuana; the scheme collapsed when they failed to apply for a business license on time.

One of their co-defendants, David Correia, a US business partner of Parnas and former professional golfer, was reported to be at large on Thursday evening. Parnas and Correia ran a business called Fraud Guarantee, offering investors insurance against fraud.

Asked whether he knew Parnas and Fruman on Thursday, the Ukrainian president, Volodymyr Zelenskiy, told reporters: I have never met these two men. I heard about them, citing press reports.

He also said he had never had telephone calls with them. When asked if administration officials had met with them, he said: If someone from our Bankova [presidential office] had any calls with them, I dont know.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/oct/10/rudy-giuliani-associates-trump-campaign-finance-violations-ukraine