Rudy Giuliani’s Ukraine Corruption Scandal Hits the US Weed Industry
During an on-going investigation into foreign money influencing US elections, four American citizens have been indicted in a weed-license bribing scandal that could tie back to President Trump himself.
Published on October 14, 2019

Donald Trump’s potentially impeachable dealings with Ukraine, facilitated by his supposedly former personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, may be connected to cannabis industry corruption in the US. Last Thursday, a New York court indicted four US citizens for their alleged involvement in a bribery scandal involving US politicians and dark money from a Ukrainian oligarch. 

The indictment laid charges on David Correia, Lev Parnas, Igor Fruman, and Andrey Kukushkin. Parnas, Fruman, and Kukushkin are Soviet-born US citizens; Correia is native-born. All four men are Florida residents and have been charged under the Federal Campaign Election Act of 1971, which bans foreigners from donating to US political elections and influencing US policy.

According to the indictment, the cannabis plot went like this: All four men illegally funneled $1 million from someone dubbed “Foreign National-1” to create recreational marijuana businesses in the US, namely in Nevada. On September 18, 2018, Fruman created a bank account to donate $20,000 to “Candidate-1” and $10,000 to “Candidate-2” as bribes for guaranteed marijuana business licenses on behalf of “Foreign National-1.” 

Talking Points Memo noted that the donations from Fruman match public donation records for Adam Paul Laxalt, who unsuccessfully ran against Governor Sisolak in 2018, and Wesley Duncan, who lost his 2018 bid for Nevada Attorney General. Both former candidates are Republicans, and the indictment states that neither man was aware of the donations’ foreign source.

Last Friday, Nevada’s Governor Sisolak expressed “outrage” at the scheme. “The Governor is disappointed in the lack of oversight and the inaction from the state over many years that led us to this critical juncture — including the apparent absence of a single criminal referral by the Marijuana Enforcement Division since the inception of licensed marijuana sales, medical or recreational, in Nevada,” a statement from the governor’s office read. “Governor Sisolak's administration is taking immediate action in order to protect the health and safety of Nevadans, the jobs created by the industry, and the long-term sustainability of education funding generated from the legalized marketplace.” 

Corruption in the cannabis industry recently came to light after local and federal authorities began investigating — and arresting — cannabis industry members and American politicians in California, Massachusetts, and Michigan who took part in illegal pay-for-play schemes. “We’ve seen, in some states, the price go as high as $500,000 for a license to sell marijuana,” FBI Supervisory Special Agent Regino Chavez said during a podcast, according to the Observer

Gallery — Fuck Tons of Weed That No One Is Smoking Except Cops:

Parnas and Fruman are also being investigated, according to the indictment, for their alleged role in President Donald Trump’s Ukraine collusion scandal. Last month, a whistleblower complaint surfaced that accused Trump of freezing nearly $400 million of US aid to Ukraine in exchange for a quid-pro-quo from Ukraine’s President Volodymyr Zelensky. By Trump’s own admission and from a transcript of the phone call to Zelensky reconstructed from the memories of those present during the call, Trump asked Zelensky to open a corruption investigation into former US Vice President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, who served on the board of a Ukrainian gas company during Biden’s terms in office. 

Trump’s call to Zelensky took place on July 25th, a day after FBI Special Counsel Robert Mueller testified to Congress about the 2016 Russian election interference probe. Democrats in the US House are currently conducting an impeachment inquiry into whether Trump attempted to collude with a foreign leader to influence the 2020 presidential election by digging up dirt on Trump’s front-running Democratic opponent, Joe Biden. Coordinating with a foreign government to influence a US presidential election could violate federal laws.

What does Rudy Giuliani and the indicted Soviet-born Americans have to do with any of this? Giuliani is also being investigated by the US House for his role in the Ukraine-gate scandal. Giuliani was named by Trump as one of the White House’s contacts for President Zelensky in the dirt-digging operation on Joe Biden, along with DOJ Director William Barr and Vice President Mike Pence. Giuliani is also a close associate of both Parnas and Fruman, and they allegedly conducted some dirty work on behalf of the White House with foreign money.

The indictment states that Parnas and Fruman made over $325,000 in donations to the reelection campaign of “Congressman-1,” who is believed to be Texas Rep. Pete Sessions. In exchange for the massive foreign donation, Sessions put pressure on the US State Department to fire the then-US ambassador to Ukraine, Marie Yovanovich. In May 2019, Yovanovich was fired for supposedly being “disloyal to Trump,” a claim that was allegedly started by Sessions after he was instructed by Parnas to do so. Authorities don’t suspect that Sessions was aware of where the money came from. 

Last week, Yovanovich testified to the US House about her termination as US ambassador to Ukraine. She said, under oath, that she believed she was ousted because her anti-corruption efforts in Ukraine threatened Giuliani, Parnas, and Fruman’s corruption schemes with Ukrainian energy companies

Giuliani was not named in Thursday’s indictment.

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Randy Robinson
Based in Denver, Randy studied cannabinoid science while getting a degree in molecular biology at the University of Colorado. When not writing about cannabis, science, politics, or LGBT issues, they can be found exploring nature somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. Catch Randy on Twitter and Instagram @randieseljay
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