Igor Fruman, the Soviet-born South Florida businessman at the center of a federal campaign finance probe involving the President’s personal attorney Rudy Giuliani, said he put more than $300,000 in political donations on company credit cards in hopes of jump-starting a new business, according to a court hearing transcript obtained by CNN.
Fruman, testifying with the aid of a Russian interpreter, said he did so because his New York-based firm FD Import & Export, to which he charged the donations, was “going out of business” and he needed to promote a new company “in order for my family not to drown.”
His testimony, given in a July 17, 2018 divorce hearing in Miami, offers fresh detail about the finances behind the political giving of Fruman and his associate Lev Parnas. Two months before the hearing, according to federal prosecutors, the pair began funneling money into the US political process to further their own financial interests and the political interests of at least one Ukrainian government official with whom they were working. In October, both men pleaded not guilty to charges they violated campaign finance laws.
It’s not clear from the hearing transcript or the federal indictment against Fruman and Parnas whether any of the political donations Fruman put on company credit cards are under scrutiny by authorities.
Fruman acknowledged at the hearing that the donations he had charged to the cards came between February 20, 2018 and June 26, 2018, and went to political action committees and various political candidates. The donations referenced in the indictment began in or around May 2018.
An attorney for Fruman didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Fruman’s finances have been under scrutiny since he and Parnas were arrested in October at Dulles International Airport while waiting to board a flight out of the country with one-way tickets.
Some of Fruman’s remarks about the state of his finances during the divorce proceeding appear at odds with information disclosed in his criminal case. At a bond hearing in that case in US District Court in Manhattan earlier this month, prosecutors said that $21 million passed through FD Import & Export over the past three years and that there were substantial financial resources that Fruman didn’t disclose to authorities.
Fruman testified at his divorce hearing that the company, from which he said he’d earned more than $600,000 in 2016 and 2017 combined, was no longer generating a paycheck.
“The company closed down its operation and since April I don’t receive any salary anymore,” he said.
Fruman testified that he took out a $3 million loan on an ocean front condo he owns and used approximately $900,000 to go toward three newly created businesses, including one he called “Global Energy Producer.”
Federal prosecutors allege that Fruman and Parnas incorporated Global Energy Producers around the time they made more than $300,000 in campaign donations in 2018 and used it to evade reporting requirements and conceal that they were behind the contributions. Fruman identified the other two companies as “Global Energy Partners” and “Global Development of something,” according to the hearing transcript. Some details from the proceeding – a temporary support hearing for Fruman’s estranged wife Yelyzaveta Naumova – were first reported by The Wall Street Journal.
At the hearing, an attorney for Naumova asked Fruman how he could afford such donations while claiming he could not support his wife in the manner he previously had.
Fruman described the donations as part of an effort “to create in a short period of time a successful business in the United States” and that they were an “inextricable part” of earning money “to support my family.”
A forensic accountant hired by Fruman’s wife testified that Fruman’s bank deposits in 2016 and 2017 were “far in excess” to his reported earnings for those years.
In 2016, the accountant testified he deposited more than $900,000 – an average of approximately $77,700 per month.
At one point, Naumova’s attorney Michael James Corey told the judge Fruman’s filed financials “are fake.”
The judge shot back: “until the Court determines whether something is fake or not just give me the facts, solely the facts.”
The inquiry into Fruman’s financials was put off to give Naumova’s attorney more time to “go through further discovery” in the case before resuming questioning of the forensic account, according to the transcript.