Two Eastern European businessmen were planning to inject $ 1 million of foreign money into the US election during the 2018 election campaign through illegal donations of straw, a prosecutor accused Wednesday of Manhattan as their trial began.
Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, and Andrey Kukushkin devised the donation program with the aim of strengthening a marijuana business by donating to candidates who could in turn help them obtain the necessary licenses for the business. pot, said deputy US lawyer Aline Flodr.
“This is what secret foreign money infiltrating the US election looks like,” Flodr told jurors. “This is why we are here.
The large sum of money was donated by Russian businessman Andrey Muraviev – or “Big Andrey” – and paid in two separate installments of $ 500,000, Flodr said.
The alleged crooks protected the transfers by moving the money to an import-export company controlled by a friend of Parnas, and then ultimately to accounts controlled by Parnas.
“It was just a farce,” Flodr said of the transfers, who did not mention that the money was to be used as political donations to promote the interest of their marijuana business.
A total of just $ 100,000, backed by Muraviev, was given to applicants under the program, Flodr said. She told jurors that despite the seemingly small amount of money that went to campaigns, it is still a crime for Parnas and Kukushkin to seek illegal contributions over $ 25,000.
Parnas and Kukushkin, of Soviet descent, pleaded not guilty in this case.
Lawyers for the couple said the evidence would not show that neither of the men knowingly made any illegal contributions.
Kukushkin lawyer Gerald Lefcourt said he was abused by a third co-accused, Igor Fruman, who pleaded guilty in the case earlier this month.
Fruman considered Kukushkin, who was born in Ukraine, a “rube” who was not sophisticated and inexperienced – and ultimately excluded him from his discussions with Muraviev and independently demanded money from the Russian tycoon.
Parnas lawyer Joseph Bondy said the evidence would wipe out his client.
“He did not knowingly, willfully violate federal election laws,” Bondy said.
He added that the idea that the couple could influence marijuana law by making campaign contributions was “absurd.”
Parnas and Fruman have previously helped Giuliani investigate the Ukrainian trade relations of Hunter Biden, President Biden’s son.