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From breaking news in the Guardian:

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)?

  • For clarity's sake, are you wishing to identify "Foreign National-1"? – CGCampbell Oct 11 '19 at 18:45
  • @CGCampbell: my guess is that if the press knew that, they would have revealed it. I'm asking in what circles they were swimming outside of the US. Apparently not Zelensky's... – Fizz Oct 11 '19 at 18:51
  • The Economist has a profile of them now but their sources of funding or non-US businesses remain largely a mystery. – Fizz Oct 11 '19 at 22:03
  • 1
    I found this article making some allegations on loans and bankrupting companies to profit from it somehow. It's in Russian but using Google Translate I manged to read it a bit. Not sure about the validity of the source either but perhaps someone more versed in Russian can use it. – JJ for Transparency and Monica Oct 11 '19 at 22:09
  • @CGCampbell I've read speculation that it's Andrey Muraviev based on his name appearing in a non-related lawsuit – JJ for Transparency and Monica Oct 11 '19 at 23:55
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The Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP) published a profile of them in July:

On the subject of their background and connections, they don't say much on Parnas, which makes sense since he emigrated to the US at the age of 4:

A resident of upscale Boca Raton, Parnas once ran an electronics business that was successfully sued for its role in a fraudulent penny stock promotion scheme. He has also worked for three brokerages that later lost their licenses for fraud and other violations. He has never been personally charged.

Court records also show that judges have awarded a series of default judgements against Parnas for multiple unpaid debts. These include over $500,000 he owes to an investor in a Hollywood movie that he had promoted but was never made. He has also been sued a dozen times over the last decade for failing to pay rent on various Palm Beach County properties and has been evicted from two homes.

Fruman seems to have more significant connections to organized crime:

Fruman’s backstory is even more colorful.

His network of businesses extends from the United States to the city of Odesa, a Ukrainian Black Sea port notorious for corruption and organized crime.

Reporters found that Fruman has personal ties to a powerful local: Volodymyr “The Lightbulb” Galanternik, a shadowy businessman commonly referred to as the “Grey Cardinal” of Odesa.

Galanternik is described by local media and activists as a close associate of Gennadiy Trukhanov, the mayor of Odesa who was shown in the late 1990s to be a senior member of a feared organized criminal group involved in fuel smuggling and weapons trading.

Vitaly Ustymenko, a local civic activist, describes Galanternik as an overseer of the clique’s economic domination of the city.

“[Galanternik] is not ‘one of the’ — he is actually the most powerful guy in Odesa, and maybe in the region,” Ustymenko said.

Galanternik’s name is seldom tied directly to his businesses. Instead he operates via a network of offshore companies and trusted proxy individuals. But there are signs that either Fruman or his long-standing local partner, Serhiy Dyablo, may have a business relationship with Galanternik via two Odesa firms (see box).

Ukrainian records show what appears to be overlap between the web of businesses belonging to Fruman and his partner Dyablo and Galanternik’s empire.

On the source of their money, they don't know much, but it certainly looks like they're laundering money from others:

The lion’s share of these donations, however, was just one $325,000 payment, made on May 17, 2018, to America First Action. The donation is subject to an ongoing complaint to the FEC by the Campaign Legal Center, a watchdog group, alleging the company is likely a shell intended to hide other donors.

Parnas said the complaint was unfounded. “We have a real business,” he said.

Parnas said the contributions were designed to get the attention of key lawmakers at a time he and Fruman were launching their gas export business. “We’ve got a business. We just want to get recognized,” he said.

The donation ascribed to Global Energy Producers in fact came from the bank account of another company belonging to Parnas. Days earlier, that company had received a wire transfer of $1.26 million from the trust fund of a Florida lawyer who specializes in real estate, court records show.

Reuters is now reporting that both men worked for Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash and that he was "financing" their activities:

Lev Parnas, one of the two associates of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, served as a translator for lawyers representing oligarch Dmytro Firtash

Both men had worked in an unspecified capacity for Firtash before Parnas joined the Ukrainian’s legal team, according to a person familiar with the Florida men’s business dealings with Firtash.

Firtash, one of Ukraine’s wealthiest businessmen, is battling extradition by U.S. authorities on bribery charges from Vienna, where he has lived for five years. Federal prosecutors in Illinois said in court papers in 2017 that Firtash was an “upper-echelon” associate of Russian organized crime.

Firtash was “financing” the activities of Parnas and Fruman, the source familiar with their business dealings said. The source did not detail their specific work for the oligarch or how much money he had paid them and over what period.

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It is hard to Google older data because everything is swamped by the current scandal, however, what I find about Igor Fruman is that he is owner of a 5star hotel in Odessa and of "Otrada Luxury Group" which is "exclusive distributor of Prologue jewelry", owned by Pedro de Amanda and Corrine de Amanda, whose profiles have additional info.

Source: https://focus.ua/people/176133

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