NEW YORK - A business associate of Rudy Giuliani received a $1 million payment in September from an indicted Ukrainian oligarch who is a fugitive from justice in the U.S., federal prosecutors revealed Tuesday.
The disclosure came during a court hearing in New York for Lev Parnas, who is awaiting trial on charges that he made illegal campaign contributions to U.S. politicians, including some made to try to influence policy on Ukraine.
At the hearing, a judge rejected the government’s arguments that Parnas' bail should be revoked because he failed to disclose the payment from Dmytro Firtash and other assets to the court when he was asked about his finances. He remains under house arrest in Florida on a $1 million bond.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Rebekah Donaleski told the judge that the $1 million payment came from an attorney for Firtash, who was arrested in Austria in 2014 to face charges in the U.S. accusing him of conspiring to pay bribes in India in connection with a titanium mining enterprise.
Firtash has denied the charges and has been fighting extradition. A court in Vienna freed him while appeals of his extradition were pending.
The $1 million payment, made in increments of $200,000, was wired into an account in the name of Parnas' wife. A lawyer for Parnas, Joseph Bondy, said the money was a loan for the purpose of buying a $4.5 million house.
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Prosecutors acknowledged in a court filing that the majority of the money was used for personal expenses and to put a down payment on a home, but they said Parnas still should have disclosed the wire transfers when he was required to detail his assets when he applied for bail. Donaleski said prosecutors believe it was a sham.
“It is an unsecured, undocumented loan to a housewife with no assets,” she said. “That makes no sense, your honor.”
Tuesday’s disclosure of the $1 million wire transfer from Firtash to Parnas raises additional questions about whether the Ukrainian oligarch was financially underwriting attempts by Parnas and co-defendant Igor Fruman to assist Giuliani in digging up dirt on Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden - a nexus now at the heart of the impeachment inquiry against President Donald Trump.
Both Parnas and Fruman have pleaded not guilty to charges that they gained access to U.S. politicians by making big campaign contributions, including some made on behalf of foreigners. Giuliani, Trump's personal lawyer, has said he had no knowledge of illegal donations.
Firtash is a wealthy Ukrainian-born oligarch closely aligned with the regime of Russian President Vladimir Putin who faces U.S. federal bribery and racketeering charges. He currently resides in Vienna, Austria, where he has for years been fighting extradition to the United States. As part of an effort to get those charges dropped, Firtash last year hired Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, conservative Washington lawyers closely aligned to Trump and Giuliani.
Asked about the $1 million in wire transfers, a spokesman for Toensing and diGenova said Tuesday that they “have no knowledge of any such loan or payment.”
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Associated Press writers Eric Tucker and Michael Biesecker in Washington contributed to this report.