Bribery may be added to charges against Parnas and Fruman
Federal prosecutors investigating associates of Rudy Giuliani have focused on a Ukrainian state-owned natural gas company, a move that suggests authorities are exploring whether a law prohibiting the payment of bribes to foreign officials has been violated.
The fresh line of inquiry has accelerated in recent weeks. New York federal prosecutors have interviewed two senior executives at Naftogaz, the Ukrainian state-run energy company, and requested interviews with at least two others who are believed to have some knowledge of the alleged scheme by Giuliani’s associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman to replace Naftogaz’s chief executive in hopes of bettering their business prospects.
The questions connected to Naftogaz suggest prosecutors – who have been investigating Parnas, Fruman and Giuliani as part of a broad inquiry that includes potential foreign lobbying violations – are also looking at whether yet another law was violated, legal experts say. The law, called the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, prohibits a US company or individual from giving any payment, offer of payment or anything of value to a foreign official in order to obtain or retain business.
The bribe from Parnas and Fruman was not in the form of cash, but consisted of a “thing of value” – they approached a Naftogaz senior executive and offered to use their connections with Giuliani and the Trump Administration to make him CEO. In return, it was expected he would assist them with their schemes to profit from the company.
To me, this is the most significant sentence in the report:
Around the same time, Ukrainians complained to US officials that Giuliani was pushing for changes to the supervisory board of Naftogaz while he also sought investigations of the Bidens, according to testimony during the House impeachment inquiry…
So there are two reasons to suspect that Giuliani might be connected to this bribe: 1) Parnas and Fruman bragged to the Naftogaz executive that Giuliani could help them shake up the board of directors and make him CEO. 2) At the same time, Giuliani himself was also pushing to shake up the board. Of course, Giuliani can plead ignorance when it comes to Parnas’s and Fruman’s bribe; unless the pair flips and points the finger at Giuliani, he can claim they were using his name without his knowledge. However, it is certainly suspicious that they and Giuliani were on the same quest to change up the Naftogaz board of directors. Are we to believe that, despite their close association (and that Giuliani received $500,000 from them), they independently, without any coordination or mutual knowledge, arrived at the same conclusion that it was time to shake up the board at Naftogaz? And that Giuliani could have no suspicions or awareness that Parnas and Fruman would benefit from that shakeup?
But that’s not all. Sondland and Perry (Trump’s representatives) were also pressuring for wholesale changes to the Naftogaz board. The smoke just keeps billowing out of this sandal.
The U.S. ambassador to the European Union, Gordon Sondland, backed a Trump administration effort to change the leadership at Ukraine’s main energy company, despite objections from career diplomats who saw the move as undermining anti-corruption efforts, three sources familiar with the matter told NBC News.
The subject of Ukraine’s state gas company, Naftogaz, came up in meetings in May with Zelenskiy and Sondland, Energy Secretary Rick Perry and the U.S. special envoy to Ukraine, Kurt Volker, who flew to Kyiv for the Ukrainian president’s inauguration, the sources said.
Perry made clear there needed to be a “fundamental change” in the leadership of Naftogaz, two former U.S. officials with knowledge of the meeting said.
The approach by Sondland and Perry seemed to fly in the face of longstanding U.S. policy, which had viewed the new management at Naftogaz as a relative success story. After the May meeting, an internal debate ensued among State Department diplomats, White House National Security Council officials and aides to Sondland and Perry, sources said.
The focus on Naftogaz’s board also raised alarms among Ukrainian officials because the effort came at the same time Giuliani’s associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were pushing for the removal of the company’s reform-minded CEO, as NBC News has previously reported. The two wanted new management as part of a scheme to sell liquified natural gas to the company, according to two industry sources familiar with the proposal.