With a portrait of former U.S. President Andrew Jackson hanging in the background, U.S. President Donald Trump speaks as he awards the Presidential Medal of Freedom to former Attorney General Edwin Meese in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington on October 8, 2019. (REUTERS Photo)
WASHINGTON, October 10 (Reuters): Two Florida businessmen associated with U.S. President Donald Trump's personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani have been arrested over violations of campaign finance laws, a spokesman for the Manhattan U.S. Attorney's office said on Thursday.
The businessmen, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, were arrested in connection with a New York case involving campaign finance laws, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney's Office in Manhattan said.
The two men had been planning to fly to Vienna on Wednesday night, according to a source familiar with the matter.
Parnas and Fruman were expected to appear in a federal court in Virginia later on Thursday, the Wall Street Journal reported, citing people familiar with the matter.
Parnas and Fruman conspired to "funnel foreign money to candidates for federal and state office," according to a federal court filing in New York.
John Dowd, the lawyer for the two men, declined comment on the charges.
Parnas is a Ukrainian businessman. Fruman is a real estate investor. Both, according to various media accounts, helped introduce Giuliani into top Ukrainian political circles.
The arrests come as the Democratic-led U.S. House of Representatives has launched an impeachment inquiry into the Republican president. The probe concerns Trump's request in a July telephone call for Ukraine's president to launch an investigation into former Vice President Joe Biden, a leading Democratic rival in the 2020 presidential election.
The Campaign Legal Center, a nonprofit that favours campaign finance regulation, had urged a U.S. government agency in a July 2018 complaint to investigate whether Parnas and Fruman had broken the law by using a shell company to disguise the source of a $325,000 donation to a pro-Trump political action committee.
The CLC later supplemented its complaint to the U.S. Federal Election Commission to include evidence of wire transfers showing the movement of the funds.