Prosecutors Hoping For Convictions in Campaign Finance Case Against Ex-Giuliani Associate Lev Parnas
Last week jurors in a Manhattan federal court heard three days of testimony as prosecutors expounded on an alleged pay-to-play scheme concocted by Lev Parnas, an associate of ex-president Trump's personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and his co-conspirators to “exchange campaign donations for political capital”.
A jury at a federal court in Manhattan is set to launch deliberations in the case of a former associate of Donald Trump’s former lawyer, Rudy Giuliani. Ukrainian-born American businessman Lev Parnas is accused of violating US campaign finance laws
by concealing the source of donations to politicians, reported Reuters.
The charges relate to two alleged campaign finance schemes. Prosecutors claim that Parnas and another Giuliani associate, Igor Fruman, originally indicted in October 2019, conspired in 2018 to dodge campaign contribution limits. The men are accused of falsely reporting contributions to the Federal Election Commission via a front company. Earlier in September,
Fruman pleaded guilty
in a New York federal court to solicitation of a contribution by a foreign national and faces up to five years in prison. Alleged Co-conspirator Andrey Kukushkin, also on trial, is said to have aided Parnas in coordinating straw donations on behalf of a Russian financial backer - Andrey Muraviev - to curry favour with politicians in states where the marijuana industry is legal, facilitating the obtaining of licenses for their marijuana businesses.
“$1 million” was wired from the Russian businessman to Parnas to contribute to US candidates to "infiltrate American elections," stated prosecutor Aline Flodr in opening statements last week, adding:
"These men shovelled thousands and thousands of dollars of foreign money to US politicians, laughing about how they were breaking the law along the way."
After prosecutors and defence attorneys completed closing arguments on 21 October, Thursday, Assistant US Attorney Hagan Scotten was cited as telling the jury:
“There was an agreement to bring Andrey Muraviev’s wealth and corruption into American politics. It is plain as day that these defendants agreed to donate Muraviev’s money to U.S. political campaigns. … There’s nothing wrong with being Russian and there’s nothing wrong in selling marijuana with a license. You just can’t donate to American politicians to get that license.”
As jurors heard testimony from some alleged recipients of the donations from Parnas and his associates, such as Republican Adam Laxalt, a former Nevada attorney general running for election to the US Senate to represent the state in 2022, no candidate or campaign has been charged with wrongdoing in the case. Candidates and political groups are believed to have been unaware at the time of the origins of the donations.
In his closing statement, Parnas' attorney Joseph Bondy argued that Russian businessman Muraviev's money funded business operations, not campaign contributions. Bondy underscored that his client was a proponent of marijuana legalisation who found himself "in well over his head."
The trial drew headlines due to the connection between Parnas and Fruman on the one hand, and former President Donald Trump's former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani on the other. The attorney representing Giuliani
has said the Parnas case is separate from a federal inquiry into whether the former New York City mayor violated lobbying laws while representing former president Trump.