By Luc Cohen
NEW YORK – A jury is expected to begin deliberating on Friday in the case of Lev Parnas, a former Rudy Giuliani associate who is accused of violating U.S. campaign finance laws by concealing the source of donations to politicians.
Parnas is accused of using funds from Russian businessman Andrey Muraviev to contribute to U.S. candidates in various state and federal elections. Prosecutors say Parnas, a Ukraine-born U.S. citizen, was trying to obtain licenses to operate cannabis companies.
Prosecutors and defense attorneys completed closing arguments in federal court in Manhattan on Thursday.
“It is plain as day that these defendants agreed to donate Muraviev’s money to U.S. political campaigns,” Assistant U.S. Attorney Hagan Scotten said.
A Muraviev associate, Ukraine-born U.S. citizen Andrey Kukushkin, is being tried alongside Parnas.
In his closing statement, Parnas’ attorney Joseph Bondy characterized his client as a passionate proponent of marijuana legalization who was “in well over his head.” He argued that Muraviev’s money funded business operations, not campaign contributions.
Gerald Lefcourt, Kukushkin’s attorney, said his client was focused on the cannabis business and not involved in campaign contributions.
Parnas’ onetime business partner, Belarus-born U.S. citizen Igor Fruman, pleaded guilty in September to one count of soliciting a campaign contribution from a foreigner. His sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 21.
The trial has drawn attention because of Parnas’ and Fruman’s roles helping Giuliani – former President Donald Trump’s former personal attorney – investigate Democrat Joe Biden during the 2020 presidential campaign. Biden won the November election, denying Trump a second term in the White House.
Giuliani’s attorney has said the Parnas case is separate from a probe into whether the former federal prosecutor and New York City mayor violated lobbying laws while representing Trump.
Giuliani has not been charged with any crimes and denies wrongdoing.
(Reporting by Luc Cohen; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)