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Pavel Fuks, Disgraced Giuliani Associate, Sanctioned by Kyiv

A scandal involving Pavel Fuks, a disgraced and recently sanctioned former Russian developer, is escalating. It is alleged that Fuks, known as the “Mercenary” in Russian criminal circles, attempted to meet then-President Trump during his inauguration in 2017. Fuks then hired Rudy Giuliani, referring to the former New York Mayor as a “lobbyist,” and has been banned from entering the U.S. Fuks, who allegedly fled Russia to escape multi-million-dollar debts from creditors and former partners is facing grave accusations.

Kyiv and the National Security and Defense Council announced last month that it was imposing sanctions against Dmytro Firtash and Pavel Fuks, with the full force of the presidential decree of Volodymyr Zelensky, Ukraine’s president. Firtash, an oligarch with ties to Russia has been criminally charged in the U.S. and is fighting extradition to the U.S. from his home in Austria. Pavel Fuks, a lesser-known but self-proclaimed tycoon, also has strong ties to Russia and allegiance to its intelligence apparatus.

Less than a week prior to the sanction announcement, American lawyer, Yuri Vanetik, who has represented clients from Eastern Europe and the Caucuses, sued Pavel Fuks for more than $250 million for defamation, and emotional distress. Mr. Vanetik’s lengthy complaint alleges that Fuks is a mobster and a Russian agent who ordered a hit on Vanetik after making various threats when Fuks and his billionaire associate did not get front row seats at an inaugural function. Fuks alleges that Yuri Vanetik had his U.S. visa revoked after his visit to Washington in January 2017, when Fuks accompanied Vitalii Khomutynnik and his wife, Svitlana, to inaugural events that were not to Fuks’ liking. Allegedly, Khomutinnyk, a Ukrainian MP at the time and one of the wealthiest people in Ukraine was accompanied by Fuks who sources stated courted Khomutynnik as an investor and wanted to impress him.

The media stories, emanating mostly from Ukraine where Fuks has been in what has been described as self-exile, highlight Pavel Fuks’ failed efforts to renew his alleged (and most likely fabricated) relationship with the former American president in January 2017.

Fuks has been already denied entry to the United States and has been convicted in absentia in Russia, charged with large-scale criminal embezzlement. However, he found a way to stay in Ukraine by aligning himself with Ukrainian oligarchs such as Vitaliy Khomutynnik, and corrupt politicians. Despite being placed on Russia’s sanctions list and sanctioned in Ukraine, there is ample reporting that Fuks is advancing Russian interests in Ukraine, conducting business with secessionists and laundering money through offshore jurisdictions, European banks, and U.S. real estate. Although Fuks does not yet show up as an “SDN” (Specially Designated National) on the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Asset Control lists, his many business associates have been sanctioned in the U.S. These include Igor Kolomoyski, a controversial Ukrainian oligarch, Viktor Yanukovych’s financier Serhiy Kurchenko, and others.

Ample media reporting, including an exposé by the Al Jazeera Investigative Unit based in London, suggests that Fuks is tied to high-level corruption schemes, organized transnational criminal organizations in Eastern Europe, and murders for hire. Fuks did not take long to get entangled as a lead or front man in several high-profile corruption scandals in Ukraine. He is involved in the case of a fugitive Ukrainian former Parliamentarian, Oleksandr Onishchenko, where he is alleged to have conducted shadowy money laundering operations. He is suspected of shady bidding and buying up distressed assets in Ukraine as a proxy for fugitive Moscow-based former politicians. Some call him a puppet of the Russian oligarchy that wants to see the Ukrainian president gone, while others believe he is lobbying for the Russians.

Whatever Pavel Fuks’ actual role may be, it is not helping Ukraine or its already tattered image in the eyes of the West. In an awkward effort to conceal his toxic image, Fuks created a Wikipedia page that reads like a marketing pitch deck touting his alleged wealth and claiming that he is a philanthropist – two self-serving claims that have little basis in reality. He has been spending heavily on expensive lawyers and PR using alleged ties to Trump and a failed Jewish memorial project in Ukraine to attempt to whitewash his reputation who escaped to the backwaters of Ukraine to continue his 1990s style “business” in Ukraine’s nihilistic business milieu.

No doubt that Fuks’ Russian handlers are hoping his story will eventually die down. Criminal schemes thrive in the shadows – away from the eyes of investigative reporters, opinionated bloggers, and law enforcement. Although it is not clear whether Fuks got to know anyone important during the inauguration, it is clear that he intended to pave the way and capitalize on his relationships with corrupt Ukrainian and Russian industrialists, politicians, and criminal groups.

In an interview with Bloomberg’s Stephanie Baker, Fuks boasted about his alleged connection to Trump. According to him, he met Trump in New York and Florida back in 2005 and 2006 as a founder of the now-bankrupt Russian development company, Mos City Group, to discuss potential projects.

He claimed to have later met with Trump’s daughter Ivanka and his son Donald Jr. in Moscow. He allegedly offered to pay Trump $20 million in installments to use the Trump Tower brand on a Russian skyscraper. “He [Trump] said that $20 million is no good” Fuks recalled. According to him, they didn’t reach an agreement then but remained friends. Most likely, Trump has not heard of Fuks and if he did meet him once, he probably does not remember him or the meeting.

A story in The Washington Times observes that Fuks has attempted to raise his profile provoking interest from Western media. Obozrevatel and other Ukrainian publications write that “Ukraine is the main area of Fuks‘ business. His task is to use the money of the Russian criminal circles to buy out promising Ukrainian gas and oil fields, energy companies, and other tactical assets for his Russian friends.” During former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani’s visit to Kharkiv, Ukraine, Fuks even managed to snap a photo with Giuliani. There are rumors that the relationship between Giuliani and Fuks did not end on a good note; just as in the case of Mr. Vanetik’s brief encounter with Mr. Fuks a year before.

An article in Mother Jones highlighted the short-lived business arrangements between Fuks and Giuliani. “Giuliani told Mother Jones that Pavel Fuks, an oil and real estate magnate, hired his security firm, Giuliani Security & Safety, in 2017 to advise Kharkiv, a city of 1.4 million in Ukraine. ‘He was [a] sponsor of a preliminary study that my firm did of security and emergency management in Kharkiv and some on advice on a planned Holocaust Memorial,’ Giuliani said in a text message. A Ukrainian magazine, Novoye Vremya, reported last year that Fuks said he retained Giuliani to ‘create a U.S. office for supporting investment in’ Kharkiv. When asked about Fuks’ claim, Giuliani said, ‘I have no knowledge of that.’ He said he did not do any work in the United States for Fuks or Kharkiv.”

The Trump Organization nor any of the former First Family’s representatives commented on Fuks’ claims about his alleged “friendship.” Neither has anyone else in the United States, outside of several late-night comedy hosts.