The Oklahoman

Prosecutor: Foreigner fueled Giuliani associate’s donations

- Larry Neumeister and Tom Hays

NEW YORK – Lawyers opened the trial of an associate of Rudy Giuliani on Wednesday with plenty of talk about $1 million from a Russian financier that prosecutor­s contend was aimed at illegally influencing U.S. politician­s, but there was little mention of Giuliani and other prominent political figures whose names will arise later in the trial.

As it turns out, only about $100,000 of the $1 million ever made it into the hands of U.S. politician­s, prosecutor­s say.

The trial of Lev Parnas and Andrey Kukushkin began a day after jury selection with claims by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aline Flodr that the men conspired to hide illegal foreign campaign contributi­ons made with money from Andrey Muraviev.

She called Muraviev a “Russian tycoon” and said Parnas referred to Muraviev as “Big Andrey” as he “made connection­s with movers and shakers in the political world.”

“That is what secret foreign money infiltrating American elections looks like. That it why we are here. That is what this trial is all about,” Flodr told the Manhattan federal jury.

The first trial witness, Wesley Duncan, a Republican candidate for attorney general in Nevada in 2018, testified that he returned $10,000 that Parnas had donated to his campaign because his campaign believed it was illegal.

“As soon as we found that out, we sent it back,” he said. Duncan also testified he once turned down an invitation from Parnas to fly to an event in a private jet.

Flodr portrayed Parnas, 49, as a man who tried to live large on the money of others, passing himself off as a wealthy and connected political donor.

Attorney Joseph Bondy said that Parnas, his client, was not guilty and that some of his work was on behalf of a natural gas pipeline deal he pursued.

“That’s what the evidence in this case will show you. He didn’t knowingly, willfully violate any federal election laws,” he told jurors.

Kukushkin’s attorney, Gerald Lefcourt, also said the prosecutor had it wrong, telling jurors that if they follow the evidence, “you’ll have no trouble in finding Mr. Kukushkin not guilty.”

He said Kukushkin, born in Ukraine in 1973, was primarily interested in expanding his legal marijuana business in California and had teamed up with Muraviev to do so after the pair met while both were studying at a U.S. school.

Kukushkin, who became a U.S. citizen at age 26 and settled in San Francisco, was thought of by his supposed co-conspirato­rs as a “rube, unsophisti­cated, inexperien­ced, not knowing what he’s doing,” Lefcourt said.

Throughout the openings, prosecutor­s and defense lawyers made few references to Giuliani, whom Parnas aided in his effort to persuade the government of Ukraine to investigat­e the son of then-presidenti­al candidate Joe Biden.

Bondy did cite Parnas’ “relationsh­ip with America’s mayor,” a reference to Giuliani’s years as New York City’s mayor, and he noted that Parnas, a Florida businessma­n, had traveled to campaign events with Giuliani.

Giuliani is not charged in the case, and prosecutor­s haven’t alleged that he knew anything about illegal campaign contributi­ons.

 ?? SETH WENIG/AP FILE ?? Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, is accused of conspiring to hide illegal foreign campaign contributi­ons.
SETH WENIG/AP FILE Lev Parnas, an associate of Rudy Giuliani, is accused of conspiring to hide illegal foreign campaign contributi­ons.

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