While working on a bribery case against Ukrainian gas tycoon Dmytro Firtash, federal prosecutors in Chicago came across Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, business associates of Rudy Giuliani who were later arrested on charges of illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. elections, The Washington Post reports.
Two people familiar with the matter told the Post that when Parnas and Fruman were arrested earlier this month, the Chicago prosecutors called their New York counterparts to offer assistance, as they believe there may be a deeper relationship between Firtash, Parnas, and Fruman. In 2013, the Chicago prosecutors charged Firtash with bribing officials in India in order to mine in the country. Prosecutors say Firtash, who now lives in Austria and is fighting extradition to the United States, has ties to the Russian mob; he denies this.
In July, Firtash hired Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, two conservative lawyers known for defending President Trump on television, to represent him in the United States. He did this on Parnas' recommendation, the Post reports, and Parnas served as their interpreter. Not long after Firtash hired Toensing and diGenova, the attorneys were able to get a coveted in-person meeting with Attorney General William Barr and other Justice Department officials to argue against the charges, three people with knowledge of the matter told the Post, but Barr chose not to intercede.
Parnas and Fruman had a close relationship with Giuliani, and they worked together in Ukraine to try to dig up dirt on Democrats. Prosecutors are now looking to see if Firtash played a "shadow role" in this effort, the Post reports, something his lawyers deny. Last week, Giuliani told the Post that Firtash is an "interesting person" but he doesn't know him personally. For more on Firtash, and how Parnas and Fruman dropped his name while trying to drum up business, visit The Washington Post.