U.S. prosecutors seek to jail Giuliani associate in campaign finance case


NEW YORK (Reuters) – Federal prosecutors on Wednesday asked a judge to jail an associate of U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani while he awaits trial, saying he lied about his wealth when he negotiated his bail.

FILE PHOTO: Ukrainian-American businessman Lev Parnas and his wife Svetlana arrive at United States Courthouse in Manhattan, New York City, New York, December 2, 2019.REUTERS/Mike Segar/File Photo

The prosecutors said in a motion filed in Manhattan federal court that Lev Parnas, who is charged with campaign finance crimes, poses an “extreme risk of flight.”

Parnas, a U.S. citizen who was born in Ukraine, was released on bail after his arrest in October and has been living under house arrest in Florida.

Joseph Bondy, a lawyer for Parnas, said he would respond to the prosecutors in a court filing.

Parnas was charged alongside another Florida businessman, Belarus-born Igor Fruman, with illegally funneling money to a pro-Trump election committee and other politicians. Both men have pleaded not guilty.

Prosecutors accused Parnas and Fruman of using a shell company to donate $325,000 to a pro-Trump election committee and of raising money for former U.S. Representative Pete Sessions of Texas as part of an effort that was ultimately successful to have the president remove Marie Yovanovitch as ambassador to Ukraine.

Prosecutors said in their filing on Wednesday that Parnas had concealed significant financial information while negotiating his bail package, including income from a law firm and a $1 million payment he had received from an account in Russia in September.

They said Parnas has “considerable ties abroad and access to seemingly limitless sources of foreign funding,” having raised $1.5 million from “Ukrainian and Russian sources” in the last three years.

Parnas’ connections include an unnamed Ukrainian “oligarch” living in Vienna and fighting extradition to the United States, according to prosecutors. That description matches Dmytro Firtash.

Prosecutors also said that Parnas falsely told an officer supervising his bail in Florida that a judge had effectively ruled he should be allowed to leave his house.

They said that Parnas’ incentive to flee had become stronger since his arrest because he remains under investigation and is likely to be charged with additional crimes.

Prosecutors are also investigating payments made to Giuliani, who has not been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing.

Giuliani has emerged as a key figure in congressional impeachment proceedings against Trump, in which Democrats have accused the Republican president of abusing his power to pressure Ukraine to investigate his political rival Joe Biden and Biden’s son Hunter. Trump has called the impeachment a witch hunt.

Reporting by Brendan Pierson; Additional reporting by Karen FreifeldEditing by Bill Berkrot

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