Giuliani associate received $1 million payment from Ukrainian oligarch's lawyer - prosecutor

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By Brendan Pierson and Karen Freifeld

(Reuters) - U.S. prosecutors said in court on Tuesday that Lev Parnas, an associate of U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, received a $1 million (£779,423.23) payment from a lawyer for Ukrainian oligarch Dmytro Firtash.

Prosecutors said that Parnas, who has been charged with campaign finance violations, should have his bail revoked because he concealed the payment from them, but U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken in New York ruled at Tuesday's hearing that Parnas may remain under house arrest in Florida.

Parnas has denied hiding the payment.

"I feel so relieved," Parnas said after the hearing.

The Ukraine-born U.S. citizen, who worked with Giuliani while he was carrying out an investigation in Ukraine, was released on bail after his arrest in October.

Giuliani has emerged as a key figure in congressional impeachment of Trump, in which Democrats have accused the Republican president of abusing his power to pressure Ukraine to investigate former Vice President Joe Biden, a potential rival in the 2020 election. Trump has called the impeachment a witch hunt.

Last week, prosecutors told Oetken that Parnas had concealed information about his finances, including a $1 million payment he had received from an account in Russia in September.

The account into which the payment was deposited was in the name of Parnas' wife, Svetlana Parnas, government and defense lawyers said.

On Tuesday, U.S. Attorney Rebekah Donaleski said that the source of the payment was Firtash's lawyer. She said it was not plausible the payment was a loan to Parnas's wife, as he had said.

A lawyer for Parnas, Joseph Bondy, identified the Firtash attorney in court as Swiss national Ralph Oswald Isenegger.

Firtash, one of Ukraine's wealthiest businessman, is fighting extradition by U.S. authorities on bribery charges from Vienna, where he has lived for five years.

Firtash’s spokesman could not immediately be reached for comment.

Bondy said in a court filing on Monday that the $1 million payment was, in fact, disclosed. He said in court that Parnas "has absolutely no continuing relationship with Mr. Firtash ... Mr. Parnas has completely burned those bridges."

Parnas was charged in October alongside another Florida businessman, Belarus-born Igor Fruman, with illegally funneling money to a pro-Trump election committee and other politicians. Fruman and Parnas have pleaded not guilty.

The case against Parnas is unfolding as prosecutors investigate payments made to Giuliani, who has not been charged with a crime and has denied any wrongdoing. Giuliani has said Parnas and Fruman worked with him in Ukraine when he was investigating Biden and Biden's son Hunter, who had been on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.

(Reporting by Brendan Pierson and Karen Freifeld in New York; additional reporting by Matthias Williams in Kiev; Editing by Noeleen Walder and Grant McCool)

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Updated Date: Dec 18, 2019 02:11:25 IST