Giuliani associate linked to Trump’s Ukraine scandal plotted to get Russian money into US election, court hears

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Giuliani associate linked to Trump’s Ukraine scandal plotted to get Russian money into US election, court hears
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An associate of Rudy Giuliani hatched a scheme to funnel $1m in funds from a wealthy Russian financier into US elections knowing full well he was breaking campaign finance laws, a prosecutor told a court in New York.

In his closing, Assistant US Attorney Hagan Scotten accused Lev Parnas and a co-defendant, Andrey Kukushkin, of using “lies and tricks” to conceal the source of the money.

Mr Parnas made a series of straw donations despite being “told again and again that he couldn’t donate somebody else’s money,” Mr Scotten said.

The defendant lied to the financier, Andrey Muraviev, about how much he was actually donating, the prosecutor said. He also failed to come through on pledges he was making to candidates, he added.

“Put simply, Parnas is ripping everybody off,” he said.

Defence attorney Joseph Bondy countered by telling the New York City jury that the government failed to prove its case.

Mr Bondy called the allegations against Mr Parnas “absurd.”

The lawyer said his client was a legitimate businessperson trying to use loans from Mr Muraviev to launch an energy company that would be involved in exporting natural gas to Europe.

“There was no effort to hide anything, whatsoever,” Mr Bondy said. He told jurors his client “doesn’t want your sympathy. He wants a verdict based on the facts and the law.”

Mr Parnas declined to testify in his own defence.

Mr Kukushkin’s lawyer was expected to give his closing later on Thursday.

Mr Parnas and Mr Kukushkin have pleaded not guilty to conspiring to use the investment from Mr Muraviev to contribute to politicians they thought could advance their business interests, including the energy company and legal marijuana industry startups.

Rudy Giuliani’s role in the Ukrain scandal did not lead to any charges (REUTERS)
Rudy Giuliani’s role in the Ukrain scandal did not lead to any charges (REUTERS)

Mr Giuliani is not charged in the case.

Mr Parnas and another Soviet-born Florida businessman who has already pleaded guilty in the case, Igor Fruman, initially caught the attention of journalists and investigators after making big donations through a corporate entity to Republican political committees, including a $325,000 donation in 2018 to America First Action, a super PAC supporting Donald Trump.

The pair then became middlemen in Mr Giuliani’s effort to discredit then-candidate Joe Biden. They connected Mr Giuliani with Ukrainian officials as the former New York City mayor tried to get that country to open an investigation into the future president’s son, Hunter.

Ukrainian tycoons and officials, meanwhile, sought Mr Giuliani’s help connecting with the Trump administration.

Though Mr Giuliani is not part of the case, he is under investigation in New York for whether he was required to register as an agent of a foreign government for actions he said he took in his capacity as a private attorney for then-President Trump.

The Associated Press contributed to this report

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