Current News

/

ArcaMax

Giuliani associate Lev Parnas sees Trump-linked charges morph into cannabis case

Christian Berthelsen and Greg Farrell, Bloomberg News on

Published in News & Features

Parnas and Andrey Kukushkin, a California businessman, are accused of a conspiracy to get $1 million from Russian investor Andrey Muraviev to use as political donations. Other charges involve laundering the true source of funds they used to donate $325,000 to a political action committee close to Trump, America First Action, and making false statements to the U.S. Federal Election Commission.

“They wanted those politicians to do favors for their business,” prosecutor Aline Flodr told the jury in her opening statement Wednesday. “These men shoveled thousands and thousands of dollars in foreign money to U.S. politicians, laughing about how they were breaking the law along the way” by “lying about where those contributions were coming from,” Flodr said.

Defense lawyer Joseph Bondy told the jury that Parnas’ interest in the cannabis business was legitimate and that he didn’t knowingly seek to violate federal election laws.

“There was no plan to take this money from a foreign national and violate American election laws,” Bondy said.

One of the Nevada politicians who received the Russian-funded donations and who will appear as a prosecution witness is Adam Laxalt, the former Nevada attorney general and gubernatorial candidate who is now running for U.S. Senate. Laxalt was a co-chair of Trump’s reelection campaign in Nevada, and fanned Trump’s claims of voter fraud in the state in an effort to get the results overturned.

Prosecutors have asked U.S. District Judge J. Paul Oetken to limit cross-examination of Laxalt on his political claims, which Parnas defense lawyer Joseph Bondy termed “untethered from reality.”

 

In addition to Laxalt, officials from the America First Action committee and Congressman Pete Sessions’ campaign are also expected to testify. Gerald Lefcourt, Kukushkin’s lawyer, told jurors that his client had launched successful marijuana businesses in California and was hoping Fruman and Parnas would invest to help it grow. Instead, they asked him and his Russian backer for $1 million for a joint venture, saying they had connections that could help expand the operations.

When they got the money, Parnas and Fruman used most of it on personal expenses, Lefcourt said. Prosecutors acknowledge that only about $100,000 was actually donated to politicians. “It was total lies in order to get more money,” the defense lawyer said. “There’s no conspiracy here. There’s no aiding foreign contributions.”

Prosecutors said it will take less than two weeks to present their evidence.

The case is U.S. vs. Parnas, 1:19-cr-00725, U.S. District Court, Southern District of New York (Foley Square).

©2021 Bloomberg L.P. Visit bloomberg.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.