NEW YORK (AP) – Lawyers opened the trial of an associate of Rudy Giuliani Wednesday with plenty of talk about $ 1million from a Russian financier who prosecutors said was aimed at illegally influencing US politicians, but little was said about Giuliani and other prominent political figures whose names will appear later in the trial.
It turns out that only about $ 100,000 of the million dollars has passed through the hands of US politicians, prosecutors say.
The trial of Lev Parnas and Andrey Kukushkin began a day after jury selection with assertions by Assistant U.S. Attorney Aline Flodr that the men had plotted to hide illegal contributions to the foreign campaign made with money from ‘Andrey Muraviev.
She called Muraviev a “Russian tycoon” and said that Parnas had called Muraviev a “great Andrey” because he “had established links with influential people in the political world”.
“This is what secret foreign money infiltrating the US elections looks like. This is why we are here. This is the subject of this trial, ”Flodr told the Manhattan federal jury.
The trial’s first witness, Wesley Duncan – a 2018 Republican candidate for Nevada attorney general – said he returned $ 10,000 that Parnas donated to his campaign because his campaign believed it was illegal.
“As soon as we found out about this, we sent him back,” he said. Duncan also said he had previously turned down an invitation from Parnas to travel to an event by private jet.
Flodr described Parnas, 49, as a man who tried to live largely on other people’s money, posing as a wealthy and connected political donor.
Lawyer Joseph Bondy said that Parnas, his client, was not guilty and that part of his work was on behalf of a gas pipeline agreement he was pursuing.
“That’s what the evidence in this case will show you. He did not knowingly, willfully violate federal election laws, ”he told jurors.
Kukushkin’s attorney, Gerald Lefcourt, also said the prosecutor was wrong, telling jurors that if they followed the evidence, “you will have no trouble finding Mr. Kukushkin not guilty.”
He said Kukushkin, born in Ukraine in 1973, was primarily interested in expanding his legal marijuana business in California and partnered with Muraviev to do so after meeting the couple while they were both studying. in an American school.
Kukushkin, who became a US citizen at the age of 26 and moved to San Francisco, was viewed by his supposed co-conspirators as a “rube, unsophisticated, inexperienced, not knowing what he’s doing.” , said Lefcourt.
Throughout the openings, prosecutors and defense attorneys made little reference to Giuliani, whom Parnas aided in his efforts to persuade the Ukrainian government to investigate the son of the then presidential candidate. Joe Biden.
Bondy cited Parnas’ “relationship with the American mayor,” a reference to Giuliani’s years as mayor of New York City, and he noted that Parnas, a businessman from Florida, had traveled for campaign events. with Giuliani.
Giuliani is not charged in this case, and prosecutors have not alleged that he was aware of the illegal campaign contributions.
But Manhattan federal officials seized his electronics in an April raid and are investigating his Ukraine-related activities to see if he broke a law requiring someone to register as a foreign agent. for certain activities. Giuliani maintained that everything he did was in his capacity as personal advocate for then-President Donald Trump.