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U.S. charges Russian oligarch with making illegal political donations

A Russian oligarch has been charged with conspiring with Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and others to funnel foreign cash into U.S. political campaigns, according to an unsealed indictment released on Monday.

In September 2020, a grand jury returned an indictment against Andrey Muraviev of Russia, charging him with making illegal political donations and for conspiring to make illegal campaign contributions in the names of straw donors, joining Lev Parnas, Andrey Kukushkin and Igor Fruman, who had been previously charged in the case, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York announced on Monday.

“As alleged, Andrey Muraviev, a Russian national, attempted to influence the 2018 elections by conspiring to push a million dollars of his foreign funds to candidates and campaigns,” the news release said. “He attempted to corrupt our political system to advance his business interests. The Southern District of New York is committed to rooting out efforts by foreigners to interfere with our elections.”

The arrests of Parnas and Fruman in 2019 drew widespread attention because the two men had been working closely with then-President Donald Trump’s lawyer Rudy Giuliani on efforts to remove the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine and to spark a Ukrainian investigation into Trump’s rival for the presidency, Joe Biden, and his son Hunter. Giuliani has not been charged in the case, but in a related proceeding last May prosecutors did obtain search warrants for electronic devices at Giuliani’s home and office.

Following a jury trial, Parnas and Kukushkin were convicted in the fall on the campaign-finance related charges. Fruman pleaded guilty in September to illegally donating foreign cash for campaigns as part of an effort to win licenses in the fast-growing marijuana industry.

Muraviev was mentioned frequently during the trial of Parnas and Kukushkin, as the source of the foreign money aimed at launching their tickets into the booming cannabis and marijuana business.

“There was an agreement to bring Andrey Muraviev’s wealth and corruption into American politics,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagan Scotten said at the trial of Parnas and Kukushkin in October. “It is plain as day that these defendants agreed to donate Muraviev’s money to U.S. political campaigns.”

The indictment unsealed Monday alleges that as part of this plan, Muraviev wired $1 million through multiple bank accounts so that Fruman and Parnas could donate to candidates they felt could help them obtain these licenses. The money was used for political donations in Florida, Nevada and Texas, and there were plans to use it to fund campaigns in New Jersey and New York, prosecutors alleged.

“To obscure the fact that MURAVIEV was the true donor of the money, the funds were sent to a business bank account controlled by FRUMAN’s brother, and then the donations were made in FRUMAN’s and PARNAS’s names,” the Justice Department news release said.

Parnas is also facing a fraud charge in connection with his fundraising for a company called Fraud Guarantee, which prosecutors say was itself fraudulent. Parnas previously denied any knowledge of fraudulent solicitations, and the judge split the charge off in the campaign finance trial. Parnas is now expected to change his not-guilty plea to guilty in the coming days.

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