Russian tycoon's charges unsealed in Giuliani-linked case

NEW YORK (AP) — A Russian tycoon whose name arose prominently in the illegal political contribution case against two associates of Rudy Giuliani was secretly charged with conspiracy in a New York court, prosecutors revealed Monday.

Conspiracy and illegal campaign contribution charges that were lodged against Andrey Muraviev in September 2020 in Manhattan federal court were unsealed by prosecutors who told a judge that the businessman was not in custody and was believed to be in Russia.

An indictment returned against Muraviev in September said some of Muraviev’s money was used for political contributions and donations aimed at launching a business to acquire U.S. retail cannabis and marijuana licenses, but the source of the funds was disguised as coming from the Giuliani associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams said in a release that Muraviev “attempted to influence the 2018 elections by conspiring to push a million dollars of his foreign funds to candidates and campaigns. He attempted to corrupt our political system to advance his business interests."

The release described Muraviev as a “Russian oligarch."

Michael J. Driscoll, head of New York's FBI office, said Muraviev conspired with Parnas, Fruman and Andrey Kukushkin to make illegal contributions.

“The money Muraviev injected into our political system, as alleged, was directed to politicians with views favorable to his business interests and those of his co-conspirators," Driscoll said. “As today’s action demonstrates, we will continue to aggressively pursue all those who seek to illegally effect our nation’s elections.”

Parnas and Fruman were involved in Giuliani’s unsuccessful efforts to get Ukrainian officials to investigate Joe Biden’s son during Biden’s campaign for president.

Giuliani remains under criminal investigation as authorities decide whether his interactions with Ukraine officials required him to register as a foreign agent, but he wasn’t alleged to have been involved in illegal campaign contributions and wasn’t part of a recent New York trial.

Prosecutors said Muraviev's money was used to reimburse and fund federal and state political donations in Florida, Nevada and Texas, and Muraviev agreed that his money could also be used for donations to politicians in New York and New Jersey.

Muraviev, 47, traveled to Nevada as part of the conspiracy and received regular updates from Kukushkin about the political progress of their pursuit of cannabis and marijuana licenses, the indictment said.

Kukushkin, a Ukrainian-born investor, was scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday after he and the Soviet-born Parnas were convicted of campaign finance crimes at an October trial in Manhattan.

Kukushkin's lawyer, Gerald Lefcourt, asked a judge Monday to consider sentencing Kukushkin to a counseling program and community service that would allow him to volunteer to work 28 hours a week assisting with the Ukrainian refugee crisis. After the Muraviev charges were unsealed, Lefcourt described the government's timing as a “publicity stunt" designed to influence Kukushkin's sentencing.

Prosecutors have asked that Kukushkin be sentenced to four to five years in prison, which would be consistent with the calculations of federal sentencing guidelines. In a pre-sentence submission, they dismissed as “self-serving" Kukushkin's claims that he never agreed to help steer Muraviev's money to U.S. political candidates and was unaware of U.S. election laws.

Fruman, who pleaded guilty in September to a single charge of solicitation of a contribution by a foreign national, was sentenced in January to a year and a day in prison.

Parnas awaits sentencing.