A lawyer for a Ukrainian oligarch on Wednesday said he had lent $1 million to Lev Parnas, an associate of U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, and Parnas' wife in order for them to buy a home in Florida.
In his first public comments on the transaction since it was revealed by U.S. prosecutors this week, the Dubai-based lawyer, Ralph Isenegger, said in an emailed statement to Reuters that the interest-bearing loan was a personal business transaction.
"The funds were entirely mine and I was not acting in this matter at the request of or on behalf of any of my clients or indeed anyone else," he said in the statement.
Isenegger is a lawyer for Dmytro Firtash, one of Ukraine's wealthiest businessman who is fighting extradition by U.S. authorities on bribery charges from Vienna, where he has lived for five years.
U.S. prosecutors said Ukraine-born U.S. citizen Parnas, who has been charged with campaign finance violations, concealed the payment from them. Parnas, who is under house arrest in Florida, denied hiding it.
Last week, prosecutors asked U.S. District Judge Paul Oetken in Manhattan to revoke Parnas' bail. They said he had concealed information about his finances, including a $1 million payment he had received from an account in Russia in September.
Parnas was charged 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.
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Giuliani has said Parnas and Fruman assisted him in investigating Trump's political rival Joe Biden and Biden's son Hunter, who served on the board of a Ukrainian energy company.
Isenegger said Lev and Svetlana Parnas had requested the $1 million loan in August this year and that it was extended to them in five installments of $200,000 with a 5% interest rate. The loan is repayable in full by 2024, he added.
Well-known journalist and pundit A.B. Stoddard connected the Parnas investigation to the Trump impeachment proceedings. Stoddard wrote this week that "Republicans want to dispense with their Constitutional responsibility before the public realizes there is a second Russia-focused federal criminal investigation underway and that Trump, once again, is at the center of it."
Stoddard argues that "sooner or later people are going to start wondering whether or not this work is also being indirectly financed by the Russians" as the bank account the $1 million was transfered to Parnas from was a Russian account.
According to court filings, the account into which the payment was deposited was in the name of Parnas' wife.
Prosecutors said in court the loan was meant for Parnas, not his wife. They said it was not plausible the lawyer would extend "an unsecured, undocumented loan to a housewife with no assets."
Isenegger on Wednesday said the loan was made in full before Parnas's arrest. "I then requested the return of the funds, but neither Mr. Parnas nor his wife has responded to my request," he said.
"This was a personal business transaction between myself and Lev and Svetlana Parnas...Mr Parnas asked to keep the loan confidential, so I told no one else about it."