A Ukraine energy official has told federal prosecutors that indicted associates of Rudy Giuliani and Donald Trump donors tried to recruit him as part of a scheme to wrest control of a Ukrainian gas and oil company, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday.
Part of the recruitment pitch was reportedly peddling a baseless conspiracy theory about billionaire philanthropist George Soros and then-Ukraine Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch. The ambassador was later forced out of her post by Trump.
Andrew Favorov, the head of natural gas for the state-run company Naftogaz, told investigators that Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman asked him when they approached him: “You’re a Republican, right? We want you to be our guy,” according to the Journal.
Both men were indicted last month on federal campaign finance charges that accuse them of making fraudulent straw donations and funneling foreign money to support Trump and Republican Party candidates. Political donations from the two Florida businessmen born in the former Soviet Union have included a $325,000 contribution to a super PAC formed to support Trump, the Journal has reported. The men have been photographed with the president and had dinner with him last year, but Trump has said he doesn’t know them.
Favorov told the Journal that he voluntarily met last week with federal prosecutors in New York investigating the two men — and Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney.
Favorov told prosecutors that he informed his boss about the encounter, and told the men he could not be part of their scheme.
Attorneys for Giuliani and Fruman declined to comment when contacted by the Journal. An attorney for Parnas said the account was “completely false.”
If true, the men’s activities in Ukraine look far less about fighting corruption, as Giuliani has claimed, and more about using unfounded conspiracy theories to wrangle energy deals in Ukraine. The business activities of all three men are currently under investigation, the Journal has previously reported. Giuliani has claimed he has no business interests in Ukraine.
Parnas is now reportedly offering to testify to House impeachment committees about a meeting he claims Rep. Devin Nunes (R-Calif.) had with former Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin in a hunt for dirt on Trump’s political rival Joe Biden. Shokin was ousted by Ukraine’s Parliament in 2016 under pressure from the U.S. when Biden was vice president and from other Western allies over concerns that he was too soft on corruption.
Read the entire Wall Street Journal article here.