Updated March 14, 2022 - 7:28 pm
A Russian oligarch has been indicted on charges of funneling illegal campaign donations to candidates that included two Nevada Republicans during the 2018 election, the U.S. Department of Justice announced Monday.
Federal prosecutors on Monday unsealed the indictment accusing Andrey Muraviev, a 47-year-old Russian oligarch, of being at the center of a plot to funnel $1 million in political donations through a straw man scheme in an attempt to obtain marijuana business licenses in Nevada and other states.
“Andrey Muraviev, a Russian national, attempted to influence the 2018 elections by conspiring to push a million dollars of his foreign funds to candidates and campaigns. He attempted to corrupt our political system to advance his business interests,” Damian Williams, the U.S. attorney for the Southern District of New York, said in a statement.
According to the Justice Department, Muraviev and three other men — Andrey Kukushkin, Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas — formed a plan to launch a business aimed at getting the retail cannabis licenses in various states, including Nevada. As part of that plan, Muraviev agreed to wire the money to Fruman and Parnas that would then be funneled to fulfill hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations that had been made or promised before the elections in November 2018. Prosecutors have said that $150,000 of Muraviev’s money ended up going to candidates and campaign accounts in the 2018 election cycle.
Fruman in 2018 donated the maximum $10,000 each to Republicans Adam Laxalt and Wesley Duncan, who were running for governor and attorney general in 2018, respectively. The donations were later returned after Parnas and Fruman were charged for their roles in the scheme.
“The purpose of the donations was to curry favor with candidates that might be able to help MURAVIEV and his co-conspirators obtain cannabis and marijuana licenses,” the department said Friday.
The oligarch “traveled to Nevada as part of these efforts, and received regular updates from Kukushkin about the co-conspirators’ progress politically,” the department said. To conceal the oligarch’s involvement, the money was sent to a bank account controlled by Fruman’s brother, and then the donations were made in Fruman’s and Parnas’ name.
While testifying in October during Parnas’ federal trial in New York, Laxalt described meeting Parnas and Fruman in 2018 during a fundraiser in Nevada that was attended by then-Vice President Mike Pence at the Trump International Hotel in Washington alongside one of then-President Donald Trump’s lawyers, Rudy Giuliani.
Laxalt said during the testimony that Parnas eventually promised to donate $10,000 and that he’d raise hundreds of thousands more for the campaign. But Laxalt said that money was slow to come in and that he began to regularly ask when it would come. In the end Laxalt’s campaign only received the $10,000, which Laxalt testified was returned to the U.S. treasury after discussing it with his lawyers.
Fruman pleaded guilty in September to soliciting U.S. campaign contributions from a foreign national. Parnas and Kukushkin were convicted in October of using Muraviev’s money,
Muraviev is facing two charges that each carry a maximum sentence of five years in prison if convicted. The Justice Department said Muraviev is believed to be in Russia and remains at large.