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Russian oligarch charged in illegal campaign contributions scheme

Washington — A Russian oligarch was indicted by federal prosecutors in a scheme to make illegal campaign contributions in the 2018 elections to help bolster a potential business in the marijuana industry. 

The Justice Department accused Andrey Muraviev, 47, of planning to steer $1 million in political donations to candidates for federal and state office who could help him and co-conspirators obtain cannabis and marijuana licenses for their future business venture. The co-conspirators in the case, Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman and Andrey Kukushkin, have already been charged for their roles in the scheme. 

Fruman pleaded guilty in September, while Parnas and Kukushkin were convicted in October.

Parnas and Fruman were business associates of Rudy Giuliani, former President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, and assisted in his efforts in Ukraine to find damaging information about President Biden’s son, Hunter, before the 2020 presidential election. Hunter Biden served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company.

The efforts in Ukraine were part of Trump’s first impeachment proceedings in late 2019, during which the then-president was accused of pressuring Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Mr. Biden and his son after freezing nearly $400 million in military assistance to the country.

The indictment filed in federal district court in New York and unsealed Monday alleges that in the spring of 2018, Muraviev and his co-defendants decided to start a business aimed at securing retail cannabis and marijuana licenses in the U.S. 

As part of their plan, Muraviev wired $1 million from foreign bank accounts to a business account controlled by Fruman, which was to be used to fund campaign donations before the November 2018 elections in Florida, Nevada and Texas, prosecutors allege. Muraviev also agreed to have his money fund donations to candidates in New York and New Jersey, according to the indictment.

To hide the source of Muraviev’s donations, the defendants allegedly made the contributions in Fruman’s and Parnas’ names. The indictment cites two instances, from November 2018, in which the two used money from Muraviev to make donations of $10,000 apiece to two candidates for state office in Nevada.

The contributions were allegedly intended to gain influence with candidates who could help the group obtain cannabis and marijuana licenses.

Adam Laxalt, a Republican who ran for governor of Nevada in 2018, testified in Parnas’s trial last year that he received a $10,000 check from a company tied to Parnas and Fruman, but was advised to reject it.

Muraviev is charged with making illegal political contributions as a foreign national and conspiring to make illegal donations as a foreign national in the name of straw donors. The Justice Department said he is believed to be in Russia and remains at large. 

“As alleged, Andrey Muraviev, a Russian national, attempted to influence the 2018 elections by conspiring to push a million dollars of his foreign funds to candidates and campaigns,” Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement. “He attempted to corrupt our political system to advance his business interests. The Southern District of New York is committed to rooting out efforts by foreigners to interfere with our elections.”



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