Who are Parnas and Fruman and what are they accused of?
On Thursday, October 10, Virginia federal court indicted four American citizens, three of whom were born in the former Soviet Union, and two of whom are associated with President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudolph Giuliani..
Lev Parnas, a businessman born in Ukraine, Igor Fruman from Belarus, American David Corett and Andrey Kukushkin, who is also from Ukraine, are accused of violating campaign finance laws.
In court, the defendants were represented by lawyers Tom Zenle and Kevin Downing, who previously, in particular, in the same court, defended the former head of Trump’s election campaign, Paul Manafort. The judge agreed to replace the accused with house arrest after posting a $ 1 million bail each. Their passports were taken away and they will be forced to wear bracelets with GPS monitoring.
Parnas and Fruman were arrested Wednesday night at Dallas airport near the American capital. As attorney Joffrey Berman said during a press conference in New York, the businessmen were detained for fears that they were trying to escape from justice. At the time of their arrest, both were found to have one-way tickets with a transfer in Frankfurt.
According to the Wall Street Journal, two hours before the arrest, the businessmen had dinner with Rudolph Giuliani at the Trump Hotel in Washington. Giuliani said in an interview with Fox News that he represents businessmen in a different case and called their arrest and charges suspicious because of when exactly this happened, and also admitted that they helped him with logistics in collecting evidence against Hunter Biden, and what exactly they tied him with former Ukrainian prosecutors general Shokin and Lutsenko.
Parnas and Fruman were scheduled to appear before three House committees this week to testify in an impeachment investigation, but their attorney John Dowd said they refused to cooperate with Congress. They were sent summons with the requirement to provide by October 16 all documents related to the case related to Ukraine.
The essence of the charge
According to court documents, the defendants conspired to “transfer funds from foreign sources to candidates for federal and state government positions in order to gain potential influence over candidates.”.
US law prohibits foreigners from donating funds to federal and local governments, and US citizens from donating on their behalf. The defendants hid this scheme from candidates and the authorities by making contributions on behalf of the company set up for this purpose and through others who made contributions on their own behalf. Personally, Fruman, with the help of Parnassus, exceeded the legal limit on donating to politicians.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman in court
Beginning in March 2018, Parnas and Fruman, according to the indictment, began attending campaign fundraising events in pursuit of their own financial interests and the political interests of at least one Ukrainian official with whom they collaborated. The name of the official is not disclosed.
To hide the source of the donation, they created a limited liability company called Global Energy Producers, which allegedly traded in liquefied gas. On behalf of this company, donations of $ 325,000 were made to one fundraising committee and $ 15,000 to another. GEP, contrary to the written testimony of Parnas and Fruman of the Federal Election Commission, did not do business at the time and did not have real investments, the document says..
The American media identified one of the committees, which received $ 325,000, as America First Action, which supported the Republican candidates. According to Berman, this contribution is the largest donation to the committee..
Parnas and Fruman visited the White House and the Mar-a-Lago mansion in Florida, where they met with President Trump and his son. Parnas and Fruman published joint photos with Trump on their social media pages.
The text of the accusation states that Parnas met with one congressman, who received about $ 3 million from a committee that received financial donations from the defendants, and asked to assist in the removal of the then US Ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, at the request of one or more Ukrainian officials..
According to the BuzzFeed News investigation, the congressman was Pete Sessions, a Republican from Texas. After the meeting, he wrote a letter to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, demanding the removal of Jovanovic from the post of ambassador, accusing her of disrespectful remarks about the current administration. Sessions later lost the election.
“They are trading political influence not only in pursuit of their own financial interests, but also violating the law in the interests of one of the members of the Ukrainian government, who sought the dismissal of the US ambassador to Ukraine,” Berman said..
Rudy Giuliani and Lev Parnas
growing weed for clowns
Also in July 2018, all four of the accused colluded to start a “recreational marijuana” business funded by a foreign national and through which their lobbying efforts were paid. At the same time, they hid the name of the investor, as one of the accused Andrei Kukushkin explained, because of “his Russian origin and paranoia around it.”.
At the beginning of their joint activity, the investor transferred a million dollars to the company’s accounts from abroad. Reporting, Parnas and Fruman sent him photographs of American politicians. Then the businessman sent $ 10,000 each for donations to various candidates. Although it can be assumed from the documents that the defendants intended to actually do business with marijuana, the case did not go well..
Who are Parnas and Fruman
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman are American businessmen living in Florida.
As Parnas told NPR, he met Giuliani two years ago, after which they became “real friends.” It was he, says Parnas, who was the first to hear about the accusation of the former Prosecutor General of Ukraine Viktor Shokin and that Shokin was removed from office under pressure from former US Vice President Joe Biden for starting an investigation into the Burisma company, where Biden’s son Hunter was on the board of directors. … And already at the end of 2018, Giuliani, with the help of Parnas and Fruman, began to investigate this case, communicating with current and former Ukrainian politicians..
In May, Parnas and Fruman filed a complaint with the General Prosecutor’s Office of Ukraine about threats from the Ukrainian oligarch Kolomoisky. Businessmen demanded payment of compensation for moral damage in the amount of UAH 200,000,000 after Kolomoisky called them “swindlers” in an interview with the Schemes: Corruption in Details program and promised to “bring them to light.”.
Later, in an interview with Ukrainskaya Pravda, Kolomoisky called them “clowns … who were doing nonsense”, Parnas – “a crook and an international swindler,” and Fruman – “an appendix” to him. He said that they came to him in Israel and asked to arrange a meeting between Giuliani and President Zelensky. Kolomoisky refused them and requested correspondence with the person who arranged a meeting with them and handed it over to his lawyers in the United States. Kolomoisky then argued that this correspondence testifies to a possible conspiracy against Biden, which could lead to “a big scandal not only in Ukraine, but also in America.”.