Federal prosecutors unsealed charged on Monday against the Russian oligarch at the center of Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman’s plot to funnel foreign money into the 2018 midterm elections. Tycoon Andrey Muraviev, who is still at large and believed to be in Russia, allegedly agreed to wire $1 million to fund hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions.
Fruman pleaded guilty to soliciting a contribution to a foreign national in September.
Parnas fought the charges at trial along with his co-defendant Andrey Kukushkin. A jury ultimately convicted the men on all charges in late October. Prosecutors say that $150,000 of Muraviev’s money wound up being actually donated to U.S. politicians.
Muraviev’s name came up throughout that trial as the alleged source of the illicit money, but Monday marks the first time he has been charged criminally in connection with the allegations.
“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,” Manhattan U.S. Attorney Damian Williams wrote in a statement. “He attempted to corrupt our political system to advance his business interests.”
In 2018, Parnas, Fruman and Kukushkin had been seeking to acquire cannabis licenses in the United States. Prosecutors say that Muraviev wired the money hoping to curry favor with politicians who could help facilitate those licenses.
“Muraviev’s money was used to reimburse and fund federal and state political donations in Florida, Nevada, and Texas, and Muraviev also agreed that the funds would pay for donations to politicians in New York and New Jersey,” prosecutors wrote in a press release. “Muraviev traveled to Nevada as part of these efforts, and received regular updates from Kukushkin about the co-conspirators’ progress politically. 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.”
During Parnas and Kukushkin’s weeklong trial, a jury heard from some of the recipients of Parnas and Kukushkin’s largesse, including ex-Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt and the pro-Trump super PAC America First Action, via the committee’s then-finance director Joseph Ahearn. Initially expected to be a government witness, Ahearn was instead subpoenaed to testify by the defense and granted immunity by U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken for that purpose.
Earlier this month, President Joe Biden announced during his State of the Union address that the Department of Justice would form a task force to go after Russian oligarchs in the wake of that country’s invasion of Ukraine. Two days after Biden’s address, Southern District of New York prosecutors charged former Fox News director Jack Hanick with allegedly flouting sanctions against Konstantin Malofeyev, the oligarch known as Vladimir Putin’s “Soros.” Last week, the U.S. Attorney’s office charged dual U.S.-Russian national Elena Branson with allegedly acting as an agent for the Russian government. Hanick is said to be in British custody. Branson and Muraviev are both believed to be at large in Russia, a country without an extradition treaty with the United States.
As Russia’s war against Ukraine rages on, Parnas’s case evokes a controversy of old involving that embattled nation.
A key figure in Donald Trump’s first impeachment in 2019, Parnas became a national figure after cooperating with Democratic-controlled House committees probing the former president’s dealings in Ukraine. Parnas and Fruman were best known at the time for allegations that they helped Trump try to discredit ex-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch, who stood in the way of Trump’s plan to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to open an investigation into his then-rival Biden.
Taking to Congress and the TV airwaves, Parnas told Rachel Maddow: “Everybody was in the loop,” referring to Republican leadership on the plot to smear and oust Yovanovitch.
Parnas’ name appeared more than 100 times in the House impeachment report, which found that Trump froze $400 million in vital military aid to Ukraine to pressure Zelensky to advance his own political interests as a “favor.” House Democrats, describing this as an act of extortion, impeached Trump. Senate Republicans acquitted him at the trial.
Federal prosecutors ultimately dropped allegations involving Parnas and Fruman’s actions in Ukraine in superseding indictments. Parnas’s trial ultimately did not delve into those claims, focusing narrowly on the campaign finance allegations.
Read the indictment, below:
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