WASHINGTON: US President Donald Trump on Thursday (Oct 10) said he does not know the two associates of his personal lawyer Rudolph Giuliani who were arrested, even though they were photographed standing alongside him.
The two foreign-born Florida businessmen, who helped Giuliani investigate Democratic political rival Joe Biden, were charged in a scheme to illegally funnel Russian money to a pro-Trump election committee and other US political candidates.
Federal prosecutors in Manhattan say that beginning in 2018, Parnas and Fruman made illegal donations to political candidates. The donations included a $325,000 contribution to America First Action, a political action committee that supports pro-Trump political candidates, according to an indictment.
Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman were photographed with Donald Trump in the White House in 2018.
Parnas, a Ukraine-born businessman, garnered attention by becoming a mega-donor to Republican Party politicians.
He told broadcaster NPR last month that he was “good friends” with Giuliani and that they played golf together.
He also helped introduce Giuliani into top Ukrainian political circles as part of Guiliani’s effort to push an investigation of Joe Biden and his son Hunter, according to widespread media accounts.
Fruman is a real estate investor originally from Belarus. He also runs a US import-export business. Like Parnas, he has donated widely to pro-Trump politicians and helped Giuliani with his efforts in Ukraine to discredit the Biden family.
They were accused of criminal violations of laws that promote transparency in US elections, as well as conspiracy to defraud the United States.
They also allegedly sought the help of then-sitting congressman to get the US government to remove the then-ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, purportedly at the request of at least one Ukrainian government official.
Additionally, Parnas and Fruman were said to have conspired to funnel donations to state and federal candidates to benefit a planned marijuana business funded by a Russian businessman.
Both were arrested at an airport outside Washington, carrying one-way tickets to Vienna.
A federal magistrate judge in Virginia said they could be released and kept in home detention once they each pay a US$1 million bond.
Giuliani, who did not return a request for comment, previously said he worked with Parnas and Fruman to get Ukrainian officials to investigate Biden.