Two associates of Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, have been charged with election finance violations for channeling foreign money into the president’s 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.
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 president’s son Donald Trump Jr and the vice-president, Mike Pence.
“I don’t know those gentlemen ... I don’t know what they do,” Trump told reporters. “Maybe you will have to ask Rudy.”
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 don’t know.”
Besides the Ukraine issue,
According to the indictment, the four defendants started to make plans in July 2018 to start a multi-state recreational marijuana business funded by a Russian citizen, whose name is not disclosed in the indictment. They discussed a strategy of currying favor with specific power brokers to advance various business ventures, including a retail marijuana license in Nevada. [...]
The indictment states that the Russian national transferred two $500,000 payments in September and October 2018 to a corporate bank account controlled by Fruman, which was then used as an “attempt to gain influence and the appearance of influence with politicians and candidates.”
But insofar we don't know much, except whom denied being involved with them. With what business or political big shots were Parnas and Fruman significantly connected in the former USSR (e.g. in Ukraine, Belarus or even Russia)?