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How a Delaware company is linked to Giuliani associates accused of funneling Russian cash to U.S. politics

Karl Baker
The News Journal

Two men indicted on campaign finance charges of funneling foreign money into American politics, among other counts, were the same individuals who reportedly helped President Donald Trump's private attorney, Rudy Giuliani, in his quest last spring to dig up damaging information on Joe Biden.

They did so, in part, by seeking political connections with a Ukrainian billionaire who today faces separate money laundering claims in Delaware brought by another prominent conservative attorney. 

The claims land just as Democrats in the House of Representatives conduct an impeachment inquiry into a July phone call Trump made with Ukraine's president.

During their conversation, Trump asked for the "favor" of an investigation into Biden's work in Ukraine while he was vice president – a time when Biden's son, Hunter, sat on the board of Burisma, a prominent energy company there.

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While the allegations behind the complex web of narratives involve some the biggest players in American politics, the small state of Delaware, a frequent conduit in the global movement of money, plays an outsized role.

Booking photo from the Alexandria, Virginia Sheriff's Office shows Igor Fruman, left, and Lev Parnas, right.

In the indictment from last week, authorities say Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman – two Americans born in the Soviet Union – used bank accounts attached to Delaware-registered Global Energy Producers LLC and other sources to "buy" potential influence with unnamed members of Congress and "the candidates' governments."

The shell company – which defendants falsely claimed was an energy firm, according to prosecutors – was formed in Delaware in April 2018 by an individual named John Gelety, according to documents from the Delaware Department of State.

Following their political donations, Parnas and Fruman then sought politicians' help in persuading the Trump Administration "to remove or recall the then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine," according to a statement from prosecutors at the U.S. Southern District of New York.

"Efforts to remove the Ambassador were conducted, at least in part, at the request of one or more Ukrainian government officials," prosecutors said in the 20-page indictment.

The scheme circumvented laws against foreign money flowing to American politics, prosecutors said.

A year ago, Bloomberg reported on elements of the scandal, including that Fruman and Parnas had been accused of breaking the law following Global Energy Producers donation to a conservative political group, called America First Action Inc.

The two men allegedly carried out their scheme while Giuliani also worked for them. In a tweet last spring, the former mayor of New York City came to the defense of Parnas and Fruman, claiming his "clients" were threatened by the "super dangerous" oligarch, Ihor Kolomoisky.

Today, Kolomoisky faces civil claims in Delaware Chancery Court that he brazenly stole hundreds of millions of dollars out of a Ukrainian bank, then laundered it into real estate, mostly in Cleveland, using more than a dozen anonymously owned Delaware companies.  

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Parnas and Fruman also carried out a separate scheme with two other co-defendants, named David Correia and Andrey Kukushkin, according to prosecutors. Using money from an unnamed Russian national, they sought to create a recreational marijuana business.

To launch it, they used the Russian money to make donations to state and federal politicians in Nevada and New York, prosecutors said.

ALLEGATIONS: Mueller says Manafort, Gates laundered Ukrainian money through 9 Delaware LLCs and corporations

Other Delaware entities reportedly linked to Parnas are the oddly named Fraud Guarantee LLC and Fraud Guarantee Holdings LLC. The former, formed by an individual named Donald M. Allison, was dissolved a year ago for unpaid taxes.

The latter is one year delinquent on its taxes. It was created by Parnas' co-defendant Correia, according to Delaware records. 

Correia, who remains at large according to the U.S. Department of Justice, did not respond to the phone number or email listed on the entity's filing. 

LOCAL STANCE:Sens. Chris Coons, Tom Carper support impeachment inquiry against Trump, undecided on removal

Still another Delaware connection came to light in a Fox News report last month. It said Joe DiGenova, a D.C. attorney and Wilmington native, had worked with Giuliani in Ukraine while he sought information about Joe and Hunter Biden's past actions in the country.

DiGenova declined an interview with The News Journal. 

Following the Fox News report, DiGenova, who once represented former New Castle County Executive Tom Gordon, denied its findings.

In an interview with Baltimore's WBAL last week, DiGenova said Giuliani had asked him to represent Ukrainian citizens and government officials who wanted to speak with U.S. investigators about claims of impropriety involving the Bidens.

He said neither he nor his wife and legal partner had worked for the president in a capacity that was "off the books," or otherwise outside of official Trump Administration business, as the cable network reported.    

Contact Karl Baker at kbaker@delawareonline.com or (302) 324-2329. Follow him on Twitter @kbaker6.