18 Oct 2019
U.S. authorities investigating an alleged effort by associates of Rudy Giuliani to funnel foreign money into U.S. election campaigns have collected records of financial transactions for more than 50 bank accounts as well as correspondence on 10 email addresses, a federal prosecutor said in a New York courtroom Thursday.
The disclosure suggests an investigation potentially encompassing a vast array of people and money beyond what has been publicly disclosed since charges were first filed against four defendants last week, including two men close to Giuliani who were arrested by the FBI as they tried to leave the country with one-way plane tickets. The probe has been active for at least several months, before U.S. Attorney General William Barr assumed office, Bloomberg reported last week.
The scope of the evidence gathered in the case was revealed by prosecutors from the Manhattan U.S. Attorney’s Office during an arraignment hearing for two defendants in the case. Asked by U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken whether prosecutors planned on filing additional charges, prosecutor Nicolas Roos said: “It’s fair to characterize the government’s investigation as ongoing.”
The charges were announced last week, and the case has heightened scrutiny of Giuliani’s foreign business ties and his work for President Donald Trump. It involves allegations that two of the defendants, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas, engaged in a scheme to launder political donations to candidate campaigns and political action committees to advance their business interests — and in one case, the agenda of a Ukrainian government official.
The charges came as an impeachment inquiry gained momentum in Congress examining Trump and Giuliani’s interactions with Ukrainian government officials, including whether they pressed the country to investigate one of Trump’s top Democratic presidential rivals, Joe Biden. Prosecutors say Fruman and Parnas pressed U.S. officials for the removal of the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch. Trump recalled her from the post earlier this year.
Fruman and Parnas allegedly directed some of their political donations to accounts supporting the re-election campaign of then-Texas Congressman Pete Sessions, including $325,000 to the American First political action committee, which champions causes backed by Trump. America First, in turn, spent heavily to support Sessions. Sessions wrote a letter to the State Department calling for Yovanovitch’s removal.
By Christian Berthelsen, Bloomberg, 17 October 2019
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