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Russian Oligarch charged with using cannabis cash to influence US elections

Russian oligarch, Andrey Muraviev, has been charged with making “illegal political contributions as a foreign national” to try and influence the 2018 US elections, and is on the run – believed to be hiding somewhere in Russia. 

US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement on 17 March 2020: “As alleged, 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.  The Southern District of New York is committed to rooting out efforts by foreigners to interfere with our elections.” 

Williams says that in the spring of 2018, Muraviev and at least three associates – Lev Parnas, Andrey Kukushkin, and Igor Fruman (“who were convicted at trial or have pleaded guilty to these crimes”), decided to “launch a business aimed at acquiring retail cannabis and marijuana licenses in the United States. As part of that plan, Muraviev agreed to wire US$1 million, through a series of bank accounts, to Fruman and Parnas to fund hundreds of thousands of dollars in political contributions they had made, or promised to make, before the elections in November 2018. 

The charge sheet read: “The purpose of the donations was to curry favour with candidates that might be able to help Muraviev and his co-conspirators obtain cannabis and marijuana licenses.  Muraviev’s money was used to reimburse and fund federal and state political donations in Florida, Nevada, and Texas, and he also agreed that the funds would pay for donations to politicians in New York and New Jersey. Muraviev traveled to Nevada as part of these efforts, and received regular updates from Kukushkin about the co-conspirators’ progress politically. To obscure the fact that Muraviev was the true donor of the money, the funds were sent to a business bank account controlled by Fruman’s brother, and then the donations were made in Fruman’s and Parnas’s names”.

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