New York – Lev Parnas, a former aide of Rudy Giuliani, will face trial in New York City for an alleged campaign finance scheme.
Parnas, along with co-defendant Andrey Kukushkinand, are accused of making illegal campaign contributions to American politicians to further their business interests, including venturing into the marijuana business in the future.
The selection of the jury in the trial is scheduled to begin on Tuesday.
FILE – Lev Parnas walks out of federal court after a hearing on February 3, 2020 in New York City. (Photo by Eduardo Muoz Alvarez/Getty Images)
Parnas, 49, and another Soviet-born Florida businessman who has already been convicted in the case, Igor Fruman, first caught the attention of investigators after making large donations to Republican political committees through a corporate entity. , which also included a $325,000 donation to the US in 2018. First Action, a Super PAC supporting former President Donald Trump.
The pair then became alleged middlemen in an attempt to discredit Giuliani’s then-candidate Joe Biden. Parnas said that he was Giuliani. is connected to As the former mayor of New York City, Ukrainian officials tried to get that country to launch an investigation into Hunter, the son of the future president. Meanwhile, the Ukrainian tycoon and officials sought Giuliani’s help to join the Trump administration.
trial is starting Two years after the arrests of Parnas and Fruman At Dulles International Airport in Washington, DC over allegations of campaign finance violations.
Meanwhile, federal prosecutors in New York City have made it clear that anyone seeking a trial to deliver new, damaging information about Trump or Giuliani would be disappointed.
Last week, prosecutors told US District Judge Paul Oetken when jurors would hear about how Parnas and Fruman shared photos of themselves with Trump and Giuliani, the former Republican president and his former personal lawyer, as international fixers. Tried to avoid the effect. came out very peripherally in the test”.
Prosecutors have also quietly dropped one of the most intriguing allegations in the original indictment: that Parnas and Fruman had coerced American politicians into the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Mary L. Yovanovitch, who later became a central figure in the impeachment proceedings against Trump.
When the charges were announced in 2019, then-U.S. Attorney Geoffrey S. Berman shed light on Yovanovitch’s allegations, saying the defendants “not only pursued their own financial interests but also the political interests of at least one foreign official.” sought political influence to advance interests – a Ukrainian government official had sought the dismissal of the US ambassador to Ukraine.”
Prosecutors later wrote to the judge that the charge was dropped from a revised indictment in an attempt to “streamline” the case, but did not provide any further explanation.
Giuliani has stated that he was not aware of any illegal campaign contributions and has not been charged in the case, however. His work in Ukraine remains the subject of an ongoing criminal investigation..
Federal agents searched Giuliani’s New York City home and office last April, removing computers and phones as part of an inquiry into whether certain jobs required him to register as a foreign agent. Giuliani has said that his only client was Trump.
related: Fed raids Upper East Side apartment, Rudy Giuliani’s office
With Ukraine’s allegations gone, the trial is expected to focus on allegations that Parnas exceeded limits on personal campaign contributions by concealing the origin of the money. Political committees aimed at supporting US Representative Pete Sessions, a Texas Republican, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, and Republican running for Congress were among those that received donations.
Part of the case alleges that Parnas and Kukushkin were straw donors to Andrey Muraviev, a wealthy Russian investor in the growing legal cannabis market in the United States. The indictment alleges that Muraviev invested $1 million in donations to politicians in several states, including Nevada, where the group was hoping to enter the legal marijuana business.
Prosecutors have not alleged that the politicians who received the money knew it came from restricted sources – and Muraviev has not been charged.
The defense is expected to portray Parnas as an investor trying to develop legalized marijuana and other business ventures, including an energy company, Global Energy Producers, that would be involved in the export of natural gas to Europe.
Defense attorney Joseph Bondi wrote in a court filing that “he and Fruman were seeking some degree of connection” that could advance their nascent energy business interests. He said $1 million from Muraviev went to Fruman — not Parnas — and was a personal loan, created in the wake of a declining Nevada cannabis venture.
Kukushkin’s attorney, Gerald Lefcourt, argued in a recent court filing that his client, a San Francisco-based entrepreneur with a long-standing relationship with legal marijuana businesses in California, was just about to start another such legitimate venture. and was “betrayed” by Parnas and Fruman. .
They accused him of stealing $1 million from Muraviev “to pay off his debts, to fund his own separate business, to promote his own personal interests, to support his lifestyle.” To do and sustain themselves until they find another victim,” Lefcourt wrote.
The filing reads, “Even the politicians who were associated with Messrs fell upon themselves. Parnas and Fruman had granted them eviction access.”
Another defendant in the case, David Correa, pleaded guilty to charges of making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and conspiracy to commit wire fraud. The conspiracy count pertained to an allegation that he defrauded investors in an insurance company that paid Giuliani a $500,000 consulting fee.
Unlike Fruman, who stayed out of the limelight and recently pleaded guilty to soliciting illegal campaign contributions, Parnas sought a starring role in Trump’s first impeachment by providing his personal records to congressional investigators.
Parnas is being prosecuted in 2020, Bondi started tweeting pictures Giuliani with his client and Republican lawmaker with the hashtag #LetLevSpeak. The attorney also provided Congressional investigators with a recording of Parnas speaking with Trump about U.S. Ambassador Yovanovitch.
In a portion of the tape, first obtained by ABC News, a voice that appears to be of Parnas can be heard saying, “She’s basically saying to everyone: ‘Wait, He’ll be impeached. Just wait.'” A speaker who appears to be Trump then replies: “Get rid of him! … get him out. OK? Do.”
The US Senate, then controlled by Republicans, Trump was acquitted of charges in 2020 that he had abused his power by threatening to withhold military aid to Ukraine unless Bidens was investigated by its leaders.