WASHINGTON (Reuters) – One of many two Florida businessmen who helped U.S. President Donald Trump’s private lawyer examine his political rival, Democrat Joe Biden, additionally has been working for the authorized staff of a Ukrainian oligarch who faces bribery costs in the USA, in keeping with attorneys for the businessmen and the oligarch.
FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash arrives at court docket in Vienna, Austria, February 21, 2017. REUTERS/Heinz-Peter Bader/File Picture
Lev Parnas, one of many two associates of Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani, served as a translator for attorneys representing oligarch Dmytro Firtash. Parnas was arrested on Thursday together with the opposite Florida businessman, Igor Fruman, on unrelated costs that included illegally funneling $325,000 to a political motion committee supporting pro-Trump candidates.
Each males had labored in an unspecified capability for Firtash earlier than Parnas joined the Ukrainian’s authorized staff, in keeping with an individual conversant in the Florida males’s enterprise dealings with Firtash.
The Floridians’ connection to indicted oligarch Firtash injects an intriguing new character into the quickly unfolding drama surrounding the trouble to question Trump.
Democrats within the U.S. Home of Representatives launched the impeachment inquiry, step one in unseating a U.S. president, over allegations that Trump pressured the Ukrainian president to assist examine Biden, a number one contender for the Democratic presidential nomination.
Giuliani was probing discredited allegations that Biden, when he was vice chairman, sought the firing of Ukraine’s chief prosecutor to halt the investigation of a gasoline firm on which his son, Hunter Biden, was a board member. The Bidens have denied the claims, and the Trump camp has produced no proof to assist the assertions.
Firtash, one in all Ukraine’s wealthiest businessmen, is battling extradition by U.S. authorities on bribery costs from Vienna, the place he has lived for 5 years.
Federal prosecutors in Illinois mentioned in court docket papers in 2017 that Firtash was an “upper-echelon” affiliate of Russian organized crime. He was indicted in 2013 and charged with bribing Indian officers for entry to titanium mines. Firtash has denied any wrongdoing.
Firtash was “financing” the actions of Parnas and Fruman, the supply conversant in their enterprise dealings mentioned. The supply didn’t element their particular work for the oligarch or how a lot cash he had paid them and over what interval.
U.S. lawmakers have sought to query the pair about their involvement in Giuliani’s investigation as a part of the impeachment inquiry. Giuliani informed Reuters in an interview that Parnas and Fruman – U.S. residents who have been born in Ukraine and Belarus, respectively – had helped “discover individuals for me in Ukraine.”
In current months, Parnas was working for Firtash’s authorized staff, Joe DiGenova and Victoria Toensing. The agency labored on Firtash’s prison and extradition instances.
“Mr. Parnas was retained by DiGenova & Toensing, LLP as an interpreter in an effort to talk with their shopper Mr. Firtash, who doesn’t communicate English,” the Washington-based agency mentioned in an announcement.
A spokesman for the agency mentioned Fruman was not retained in any capability. DiGenova and Toensing didn’t remark additional on Firtash’s enterprise dealings with the 2 males in response to questions from Reuters.
John Dowd, the lawyer representing Parnas and Fruman, confirmed to Reuters that Parnas had labored for Firtash’s authorized staff as an interpreter. However Dowd additionally informed the U.S. Congress that each males labored for DiGenova and Toensing.
On Oct. three, Dowd wrote Congress to say the 2 males couldn’t present sure details about Ukraine as a result of they have been partially lined by attorney-client and different authorized privileges. Dowd primarily based the privilege declare on the truth that the 2 males assisted attorneys DiGenova and Toensing; that that they had labored for Giuliani; and that Giuliani had beforehand represented them of their private and enterprise affairs.
Dowd’s letter didn’t point out Firtash. He declined to answer a request to make clear whether or not one or each of his shoppers labored for Firtash’s authorized staff.
Parnas’s function as an interpreter for DiGenova and Toensing was reported on Thursday by the Wall Road Journal.
FLIGHTS TO VIENNA
The individual conversant in Parnas and Fruman’s enterprise affairs informed Reuters that each males had been working for Firtash for a number of months earlier than Parnas joined the Ukrainian mogul’s authorized staff, and that Firtash has paid their bills previously. Their prices embrace non-public jet charters in the USA and overseas journey to Vienna, in keeping with the supply, who’s conversant in their funds.
Giuliani informed Reuters the 2 males had been to Vienna – the place Firtash lives – three to 6 instances within the final two months. Giuliani declined to touch upon the explanations for his or her travels. He mentioned he didn’t find out about any enterprise relationship between Firtash and the 2 males that helped him examine Biden.
“They may very well be concerned in enterprise with one another,” Giuliani mentioned. “It’s doable. I don’t know. They might be concerned in his protection.”
Firtash is a former supporter of Ukraine’s ousted pro-Russian president Viktor Yanukovich. He made a fortune promoting Russian gasoline to the Kiev authorities. An Austrian court docket in June cleared the best way for his extradition to the USA, however Firtash’s authorized staff continues to struggle it.
In an interview with Reuters final month, nicely earlier than his arrest, Parnas mentioned Firtash had been framed by U.S. prosecutors and diplomats.
“They took an harmless man like Dmytro Firtash they usually painted him out to be this unhealthy outdated Mafia man, which he’s clearly not. He’s one of the crucial sincere businessmen on the market. Unbelievable businessman.”
Parnas informed Reuters that Firtash was the sufferer of a cabal that he alleges was concerned in suppressing corruption by Joe Biden and his son in Ukraine. “Similar individuals concerned,” he mentioned. “Similar characters.”
Parnas declined to touch upon the particular work he carried out for Firtash, referring inquiries to the oligarch’s attorneys, Toensing and DiGenova.
Reporting by Aram Roston in Washington, Karen Freifeld in New York and Polina Ivanova in Kiev; Enhancing by Ross Colvin and Brian Thevenot