Ukrainian gas executive cooperating in US probe of Giuliani

Michael Biesecker and Desmond Butler
Associated Press

Washington – Federal prosecutors are planning to interview an executive with Ukraine’s state-owned gas company as part of an ongoing probe into the business dealings of Rudy Giuliani and two of his Soviet-born business associates.

A lawyer for Andrew Favorov confirmed Tuesday that he is scheduled to meet voluntarily with the U.S. Justice Department. Favorov is the director of the integrated gas division at Naftogaz, the state-owned gas provider in Ukraine.

FILE - In this Aug. 15, 2019, file photo, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani smiles as he arrives to President Donald Trump's campaign rally in Manchester, N.H.

Federal prosecutors in New York are investigating the business dealings of Giuliani, President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer, including whether he failed to register as a foreign agent, according to people familiar with the probe. The people were not authorized to discuss the investigation publicly and spoke on the condition of anonymity.

Giuliani’s close associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested last month at an airport outside Washington while trying to board a flight to Europe with one-way tickets. They were later indicted by federal prosecutors on charges of conspiracy, making false statements and falsification of records.

Following an inquiry from The Associated Press, Favorov lawyer Lanny Breuer confirmed his client is set to meet with prosecutors.

“The Department of Justice has requested an interview,” Breuer said. “He has agreed and will voluntarily sit down with the government attorneys. At this time, it would not be appropriate to comment further.”

Breuer declined to say when or where Favorov, who has dual Ukrainian-U.S. citizenship, will be meeting with prosecutors.

Jim Margolin, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in the Southern District of New York, declined to comment.

According to a federal indictment filed last month, Parnas and Fruman are alleged to have been key players in Giuliani’s efforts earlier this year to spur the Ukrainian government to launch an investigation of Democratic presidential contender Joe Biden and his son Hunter.

The two men’s efforts included helping to arrange a January meeting in New York between Giuliani and Ukraine’s former top prosecutor, Yuri Lutsenko, as well as other meetings with top government officials.

While the House impeachment hearings have focused narrowly on Giuliani’s role in pursuing Ukrainian investigations into Democrats, the interest of federal prosecutors in interviewing Favorov suggests they are conducting a broader probe into the business dealings of Giuliani and his associates.

The Associated Press reported on Oct. 7 that while they were working with Giuliani to push for investigating the Bidens, Parnas and Fruman were also leveraging political connections to Trump and other prominent Republicans as part of an effort to enrich themselves.

In March, Parnas and Fruman approached Favorov while the Ukrainian executive was attending an energy industry conference in Texas. Over drinks and dinner, Giuliani’s associates told him they had flown in from Florida on a private jet to recruit him to be their partner in a new venture to export up to 100 tanker shipments a year of U.S. liquefied gas into Ukraine, where Naftogaz is the largest distributor, according to two people Favorov later briefed on the details.

As part of the plan, Parnas suggested backing Favorov to replace his boss, Naftogaz CEO Andriy Kobolyev. Parnas is reported to have also told Favorov that Trump planned to remove the U.S. ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovitch, and replace her with someone more open to aiding their business interests. Yovanovitch was recalled to Washington in May.

Giuliani, who has described Parnas and Fruman as his clients, has denied involvement in the two men’s efforts to forge a gas deal in Ukraine.