Two businessmen associated with Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, have been arrested over claims they broke election campaign finance laws.
Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas were detained on four counts, including conspiracy, making false statements to the Federal Election Commission and falsification of records.
They had key roles in Mr Giuliani’s efforts to try to get Ukraine to investigate Trump political rival Joe Biden and his son – a call later reiterated by the president and which led to an impeachment investigation.
Prosecutors claim that in May 2018, Mr Parnas and Mr Fruman transferred $325,000 (£295,000) to a political group supporting President Trump’s re-election, the America First Action committee.
However, it is claimed the company reported as making the transaction was not the true source of the money.
The cash was listed as coming from Global Energy Producers (GEP) but prosecutors claim it was a shell company with “no real business”.
The men allegedly engaged in the scheme to try to buy potential influence with politicians and advance their own financial interests.
Case documents claim they were trying to “hide from creditors that they had access to funding, and to conceal from the public and the FEC their involvement in making these contributions”.
It adds that Mr Parnas and Mr Fruman “sought to advance their personal financial interests and the political interests of at least one Ukrainian government official with whom they were working”.
Prosecutors say they tried to get the help of an unnamed congressman to convince the US government to remove the former ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch.
The May 2018 transfer was part of a two-month flurry of political donations connected to the pair, with at least $478,000 (£384,000) going to Republican campaigns and groups.
It enabled them to get access to the highest levels of the Republican Party, including meetings with Mr Trump at the White House and his Mar-a-Lago resort in Florida.
Jay Sekulow, a lawyer for Mr Trump, said neither the president nor his campaign was aware of the alleged scheme.
The men were arrested on Wednesday night at Dulles International Airport in Washington and taken to a jail in Alexandria, Virginia. They are expected to appear at a federal court on Thursday.
Democrats have also now subpoenaed Mr Parnas and Mr Fruman – as well as Mr Giuliani – for documents related to their impeachment investigation.
Associated Press reported last week that the pair had helped arrange a meeting in New York in January between Ukraine’s former top prosecutor and Mr Giuliani, as well as other meetings with top government officials.
Source: SKY NEWS