Published: Fri, October 11, 2019
Worldwide | By Lisa Hogan

Two Ukrainian businessmen linked to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani arrested

Two Ukrainian businessmen linked to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani arrested

Two Florida businessmen tied to US President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have been arrested on campaign finance violations resulting from a $325,000 donation to a political action committee supporting Trump's reelection.

The men, Ukrainian-born Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, originally from Belarus, have been charged with conspiring to circumvent federal laws against foreign interference by allegedly engaging in a scheme to funnel foreign money to candidates for state and federal offices.

The two men were also involved in helping Giuliani in an effort to gather compromising material on Trump's potential challenger for the presidency, Joe Biden.

A whistle-blower complaint to Congress also raised concerns that Trump leveraged $400-million in USA aid to try to secure a promise from Ukraine's president to investigate Biden and his son, Hunter Biden.

Giuliani, who did not return a request for comment, previously said he worked with Parnas and Fruman to get Ukrainian officials to investigate Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden, Trump's political rival. Two other men were charged in the case.

- Prosecutors said Parnas and Fruman sought the help of a then-sitting congressman to get the US government to remove the then-ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.

One of the four men indicted Thursday for a scheme to funnel foreign money to USA politicians to buy political influence issued a cryptic warning to former Vice President Joe Biden about his and his son's Ukraine ties - all the way back in January 2017.

The indictment also lays out how they donated $325,000 dollars to a pro-Trump super PAC, America First Action, around this same time through a limited-liability company allegedly created for the goal of masking the true source of their campaign contributions. After a Federal Election Commission complaint was filed against the defendants, the complaint claims they lied about the nature of GEP when they said that it "is a real business enterprise funded with substantial bona fide capital investment; it's major is energy trading, not political activity".

America First Action said the $325,000 contribution would remain in a separate account while the court cases play out.

The marijuana business never actually came to fruition, according to the indictment.

Mr Parnas had been asked to give a deposition on Thursday and Mr Fruman on Friday but the White House has sought to block all cooperation with the House committees conducting the impeachment inquiry. The panels have also subpoenaed Giuliani.

"I can tell you that we scrupulously adhere to all laws and regulations", she said.

A whistleblower complaint by an unnamed intelligence official refers to "associates" of Giuliani in Ukraine who were attempting to contact President Zelenskiy's team, though it's not clear that refers to Parnas and Fruman.

The two men, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, believed to be important witnesses in the House's impeachment inquiry of Mr. Trump, were arrested on campaign finance charges.

Parnas and Fruman also personally donated the legal maximum amount to Sessions campaign and personally met with him in May - the same month Parnas posted about meeting with Donald Trump Jr. for breakfast.

Prosecutors also allege that Parnas urged a congressman to seek the ouster of the US ambassador to Ukraine, at the behest of Ukrainian government officials.

"The public is now learning just how unsafe dark money can be in USA elections, including the potential for illegal foreign funds, which DOJ says were used here", said Trevor Potter, president of CLC and former Republican chairman of the FEC.

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