By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK – A Russian businessman funded an account used by two ex-associates of Rudy Giuliani to donate to U.S. political campaigns, according to documents shown in court on Monday.
Prosecutors presented the financial records to a Manhattan federal court jury in the second week of the trial of one of the former associates, Lev Parnas, on charges of violating campaign finance laws.
Prosecutors say the Ukraine-born Parnas and another Giuliani associate, Belarus-born Igor Fruman, illegally funneled money from Moscow-based businessman Andrey Muraviev to candidates in U.S. states where the group was seeking licenses to operate cannabis businesses. Parnas pleaded not guilty.
Two Muraviev-owned firms wired $1 million to an account held by Fruman’s FD Import & Export Corp between June and December 2018, bank statements showed.
That account then paid off more than 99% of the balance on a credit card account Parnas, Fruman and a company they founded used to make more than $150,000 in donations to candidates and committees ahead of the Nov. 6, 2018 election, the records showed.
Fruman pleaded guilty to violating campaign finance laws in September.
Parnas’ attorney, Joseph Bondy, said in opening arguments last week that Muraviev’s money was used for business ventures, not Parnas’ campaign contributions.
The case has drawn attention because of the role Parnas and Fruman played in helping Giuliani – Donald Trump’s former personal attorney and a former New York City mayor – investigate Joe Biden ahead of the 2020 election. Biden, a Democrat, defeated Republican Trump’s re-election bid.
Giuliani’s attorney has said the Parnas case is separate from a federal inquiry into whether Giuliani violated lobbying laws while working as Trump’s lawyer. Giuliani has not been charged with any crimes and denies wrongdoing
(Reporting by Luc Cohen in New York; editing by Richard Pullin)