U.S. Putting the Squeeze on Russian Oligarchs Investing in the Marijuana Industry
Not the kind of dirt cannabis needs.
On Monday, March 14, Russian oligarch Andrey Muraviev was charged by federal prosecutors with funding a one million dollar campaign hush money that unlawfully channeled donations to United States politicians in turn for their help in getting a cannabis retail license.
A cyclone of schemes spreading over various states suggests a plot to influence elections and illegally acquire cannabis licenses in other areas and Nevada.
According to a charge that was declassified for public viewing by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York some days ago, it was alleged that a Russian oligarch conspired with American officials to obtain a cannabis license through illegal channels in Nevada. Federal prosecutors have said the activities amounted to political campaign donations that were not legal.
Spreading dirty money everywhere
In 2018, Andrew Muraviev, who happens to be a Russian oligarch, was indicted for breaking federal campaign finance laws. He was accused of illegally channeling contributions to ex-Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt in exchange for the benefit of obtaining an adult-use cannabis business license in Nevada. Laxalt had already been suspected and accused of bribery in the past.
The information comes at a period where organizations and different businesses are seeking to cut ties with Russian oligarchs, even though for a different reason, as the conflict with Ukraine stirs up prying eyes. Andrew Muraviev is charged with working alongside Ukrainian-born Andrey Kukushkin, Igor Fruman, Lev Parnas, and others. They have all been sentenced at trial or have admitted guilt to related offenses.
The five of them are charged with coming up with a plan to obtain $1 million from Muraviev to give later contributions to political campaigns as a favor to political candidates who could, as a means of returning such favor, make moves to help Muraviev and his fellow accomplices get licenses.
High Times Magazines were informed by a representative of the Nevada Cannabis Compliance Board that they had just discussed this particular issue during a recent board meeting that occurred the previous December. Chair Dennis Neilander said at the Cannabis Compliance Board meeting on December 14 that "Muraviev was a creditor and lender, and the board takes up the responsibility of knowing where funds depart to."
In view of this situation, the funds were obtained from a person identified as having been involved with some other people who perpetrated serious offenses. The majority of the members of the board were in agreement. Reports from the Miami Herald said that the plan included ensuring cannabis licenses in various states. Still, eventually, it died off due to failure to submit the required paper documents on time to get licenses elsewhere and in Nevada.
Muraviev's wealth was gained as the Chief Executive Officer of a Russian cement company and from QIWI, the Russian online payment company where he has shares. Muraviev already had investments in various cannabis operations based in California prior to the time he linked with Igor Fruman and Lev Parnas.
Where is Muraviev?
In a press release, the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, Damian Williams, and the Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), Micheal J. Driscoll, openly declared the unsealing.
Michael J. Driscoll, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge, announced that allegedly, Andrew Muraviev, a Russian national and oligarch, tried to impact the 2018 elections by planning to move a million dollars of his funds overseas to campaigns and candidates. Also,he made attempts to corrupt the Southern District political system to progress his business earnings.
He also stated that the Southern District of New York is devoted to rooting out efforts by foreign people to intrude on their elections.
The action was to make known that federal prosecutors will tolerate no illicit contributions that are to affect elections in anyone's favor.
In agreement with this, FBI Assistant Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll said that "as alleged, Muraviev, who is a Russian foreign national, made unlawful political donations and colluded with Andrey Kukushki, Igor Fruman, and Lev Parnas to conceal their real origins."
The funds Muraviev inserted into our political system were, allegedly, authorized for candidates whose views were advantageous to his business income and those of his fellow conspirators. As today's action illustrates, we will go on with the fervent pursuit of all those who aspire to influence our nation's elections unlawfully".
The triad (Fruman, Parnas, Kukushki) was as well alleged to be tied to previous New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani's endeavors to unearth dirt in Ukraine on future US President Joe Biden.
According to the Nevada Independent, Parnas was found guilty last October on six counts related to channeling money in US campaigns, and Laxalt confirmed at the trial that Lev Parnas pledged to hold a fundraiser, which never happened. Igor Fruman confessed to being guilty of unlawful campaign donations last September.
To conceal Muraviev's illegal donations, his fellow conspirators masked the contribution as a business loan, and the funds were wired to an organization account controlled by Kukushkin, the federal prosecutors wrote.The men sent Muraviev a photo taken on Oct. 20, 2018, with an unknown Nevada candidate who was to get a ten thousand dollar campaign donation from them close to two weeks later. The federal prosecutors said the contribution was made in Fruman's name, but it was funded by Muraviev.
Even though the Russian-born men were victorious in various elections and kept on meeting with Muraviev in 2019, they did not try for the marijuana licenses on time, or they failed to get the permits, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
The Office's Public Corruption Unit is examining the case of Muraviev. Hagan Scotten, Aline R. Flodr, Nicolas Roos, and Rebekah Donaleski are the Assistant United States Attorneys in charge of the prosecution. The charges included in the indictment are simply accusations. The defendant is perceived as innocent until they can be proven guilty.