In late 2018, Rudy Giuliani said he delivered an unusual missive to Sen. Lindsey Graham, according to the lawyer of one of his ex-associates: a letter calling for sanctions on a host of Ukrainian government officials, including one widely viewed in the West as a brave reformer and another who helmed the company where Hunter Biden was a board member.
Joseph Bondy, the attorney for Lev Parnas, an indicted Florida businessman involved in the U.S.-Ukraine saga, told The Daily Beast that Giuliani showed his client the letter and told him he delivered it to Sen. Graham (the letter misspelled the South Carolina Republican’s first name as “Lingsey”). Bondy said Giuliani also showed Parnas a second, similar letter addressed to Sigal Mandelker, who at the time was a top official at the Treasury Department.
The letters, which The Daily Beast reviewed, claim that an eclectic mix of Ukrainian political figures and businesspeople were part of an alleged “organized crime syndicate.” The letters claim that the individuals were “actively involved in the siphoning of funds appropriated by the American government for aid to Ukraine.” And they claim that the alleged crime syndicate used those funds to buy black-market military parts from a Russian company under U.S. sanctions. All the while, they say, Ukraine’s then-prosecutor general (Giuliani ally Yuriy Lutsenko) couldn’t fight the crime because then President Petro Poroshenko wouldn’t let him take the case to court.
“It concerns me, as should any fellow American, that a taxpayer’s money is rudely been stolen in Ukraine [sic],” reads the letter to Mandelker.
The letter-writer introduces himself in the letter addressed to Mandelker as a Ukraine-born U.S. citizen named Michael Guralnik who graduated from the Soviet Military Academy and was “a 10-year veteran of the Soviet Army.” The letter to Graham, meanwhile, also bears Guralnik’s name but contains no introduction. It arrived a month before Giuliani tried to help former Ukrainian top prosecutor Viktor Shokin travel to the U.S. and meet with Graham, Bondy said. A few weeks before the date of the Guralnik letter, Giuliani sent Graham a letter of his own asking his staff to help three unnamed Ukrainians get visas so they could come to the U.S. and share information about the Bidens. The State Department did not give Shokin a visa.
The letters say that the “only way” to “stop this syndicate” is to sanction the individuals involved. Both letters list 12 people, along with phone numbers for some of them. Included on the list are Mykola Zlochevskiy, the head of the scandal-plagued Ukrainian company where Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden was a board member; Valeriya Gontareva, the head of the National Bank of Ukraine from mid-2014 to mid-2017; and Kateryna Rozhkova, who was her deputy.
Graham and Giuliani did not respond to repeated requests for comment, and it was not immediately clear if lawmakers ever even considered the sanctions. A spokesperson for Graham did not respond to a request for comment. Mandelker did not comment on the record for this report. When contacted, Guralnik hung up the phone and texted, “Do not call any more.”
The inclusion of Gontareva and Rozhkova’s names is notable. In 2016, Gontareva oversaw the Ukrainian government’s decision to seize control of a bank that belonged to oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky. Ukrainian officials alleged that Kolomoisky and his allies had misappropriated billions from the bank. Kolomoisky has pushed to regain control of the bank, even as the FBI has investigated him for financial crimes.
And in the wake of her decision, Gontareva has faced death threats and danger. Her home was vandalized, and someone left a coffin with her likeness inside it outside the Central Bank offices, as The Washington Post reported. Years after the nationalization of the bank, the danger persists. In August 2019, she was hit by a car in London and hospitalized. The next month, her home in Ukraine was burned down, per the Kyiv Post.
Gontareva’s fight to reform Ukraine’s financial sector won her devoted allies in the West, who saw her as one of Kyiv’s few genuine reformers. Kolomoisky, meanwhile, is an intimidating figure to many in Ukraine, and some have alleged he has ordered contract killings. He also funded a private militia that fought Russian-backed separatists in Eastern Ukraine. His connection to Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky has also long raised eyebrows; the TV show that boosted Zelensky’s public profile aired on a TV channel that Kolomoisky owns, and one of Kolomoisky’s former lawyers is now a senior aide to Zelensky (Giuliani and U.S. officials have raised concerns with Zelensky’s team about that aide, Andriy Bohdan).
Jordan Libowitz, a spokesperson for the government watchdog organization Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington, told The Daily Beast that the Guralnik letters mean Giuliani should answer more questions about his Ukraine work.
“While we can’t obviously speak to the veracity of these claims, it does seem to look more and more like Rudy Giuliani is incredibly deeply involved with some seriously shady business in Ukraine and we need more information, not only on his activities, but his activities and those of his associates on behalf of or benefiting Donald Trump,” he said. “As bad as these things look on their face, they’re so much worse if you consider the involvement of the president of the United States. There is so little we know, but enough to know that we need to know a lot more.”