US authorities arrested on Wednesday two close associates of President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani and indicted them with funneling foreign money to US politicians and trying to influence the country’s relations with Ukraine.
The arrests of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman came less than two weeks after the US House of Representatives issued a subpoena to Giuliani and urged the two arrested suspects to provide information about a back-channel campaign aimed to gather information in Ukraine damaging to the President’s political rival, Joe Biden.
The Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York unsealed the indictment against the two Ukraine-born men, accusing them of conspiring to “circumvent the federal laws against foreign interference by engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and State office.”
Two more suspects – David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin – are named in the indictment. Kukushkin, according to the Attorney’s statement, was arrested on Wednesday in California, while Correia remains at large.
Prosecutors reportedly identified Kukushkin and Correia as “conspirators in an alleged scheme that aimed to funnel US$1 million in donations to politicians and political candidates in Nevada, New York and other states to benefit a planned marijuana business funded by an unnamed Russian businessman.”
“As alleged in the indictment, the defendants broke the law to gain political influence while avoiding disclosure of who was actually making the donations and where the money was coming from,” US Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman said in a statement.
He explained that the suspects have sought political influence “not only to advance their own financial interests but to advance the political interests of at least one foreign official – a Ukrainian government official who sought the dismissal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine.”
Parnas and Fruman, according to CBS News, met numerous times with a member of Congress to “urge the ouster of the US ambassador to Ukraine, working at the direction of Ukrainian government officials.”
“These allegations aren’t about some technicality, a civil violation, or an error on a form. This investigation is about corrupt behavior and deliberate law breaking,” FBI Assistant Director William F. Sweeney Jr. said.
He underlined that the FBI takes the obligation to tackle corruption seriously and that there are no exceptions to that rule, especially as the “American people expect and deserve an election process that hasn’t been corrupted by the influence of foreign interests, and the public has the right to know the true source of campaign contributions.”
The indictment followed an impeachment inquiry launched two weeks ago after the revelation of a whistleblower complaint alleging that President Trump had improperly pressured Ukraine and its President, Volodymyr Zelensky, to investigate business dealings involving the son of former Vice President Joe Biden.
OCCRP | October 11th, 2019