WASHINGTON (CN) – Stamped with “confidential” watermarks, an internal business document obtained by Courthouse News sheds light on the company founded by Rudy Giuliani’s now-indicted former associates Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, which announced a partnership with oil billionaire Harry Sargeant.
“GEP is also proud to announce that it has partnered with Mr. Harry Sargeant III, via his company, Global Oil Management Group, LLC (GOMG),” the document states.
In a phone interview, Parnas’ attorney Joseph Bondy emphasized that the liquefied natural gas business plan described in the document was not illegal and that his client hoped to benefit that company with sound relationships.
“Parnas sought to involve Harry Sargeant because he believed him to be someone with relevant experience in the field and powerful connections to make that business come to fruition,” Bondy told Courthouse News.
It is unclear when Parnas’ affiliation with Sargeant began, but a potential investor received the pitch by email on August 2018.
“Mr. Sargeant has been a leader in the oil industry for over 30 years,” the document continues. “He supplied the United States government with most of its jet fuel needs in during the Iraq War, for which his company received a military commendation.”
The recipient of the document said that he discarded the pitch deck after he felt the summary was not a serious effort—though Sargeant’s name intrigued him enough to explore the concept further.
If the pitch is accurate, Sargeant’s affiliation with the Global Energy Producers co-founders appears to have endured for more than a year. Earlier this month, the House Judiciary Committee released dozens of pages of encrypted messages between Parnas and Sargeant, dated between March and September 2019.
In several messages, Sargeant apparently signed off on Parnas and Fruman’s jet rides, local travel and other expenses.
“Just getting expensive flying u guys everywhere LEV,” Sargeant groused in an April 10, 2019, WhatsApp message.
Another exchange apparently showed Sargeant to have been in the loop about ex-U.S. Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch’s unceremonious ouster from Ukraine.
“The bomb is dropping tomorrow,” Parnas wrote in an April 23 message, first reported by Mother Jones.
During her House testimony late last year, Yovanovitch testified that she was recalled on April 24, a day after this message.
When those messages broke earlier this month, Sergeant’s attorney Chris Kise told Mother Jones his billionaire client had been duped by Parnas and had expected to have been paid back for his expenses.
Kise, a partner at the Tallahassee, Florida-based Foley & Lardner, denied that his billionaire client knew about or took part in wrongdoing in Ukraine.
“Mr. Sargeant was neither part of nor aware of any plan involving any board members of Naftogaz or the U.S. Ambassador,” Kise wrote in an email statement, referring to a Ukrainian natural gas company frequently cited in the impeachment proceedings. “Mr. Sargeant has no and has not ever had any business with Mr. Parnas or Fruman, and no business in Ukraine.”
The two-page company overview prominently introduces its co-founders at the beginning.
“Global Energy Producers, LLC (GEP) was founded in 2018 by Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman as a venture designed to capitalize on the Trump administration’s pro-energy policies, as well as the significant natural gas reserves which have been discovered in the United States,” it states.
Federal prosecutors allege that GEP was a shell company through which Parnas and Fruman illegally funneled money into U.S. elections. Both have pleaded not guilty and are awaiting trial in the Southern District of New York, whose U.S. Attorney’s office declined comment.
Registered as a Delaware limited liability company on April 11, 2018, GEP’s co-founders would get an audience with President Donald Trump mere weeks after the company’s formation in a meeting at the Trump International Hotel in Washington.
An alarming section of that recording showed the president saying of ex-Ambassador Yovanovitch roughly a year before her ouster: “Take her out.”
In a less-discussed section, Parnas can be heard talking about his newly formed company in detail.
“He’s my partner in the energy industry,” his voice can be heard telling Trump on a video recording of that meeting, apparently alluding to Fruman. “We’re purchasing right now. Uh, we’re in the process of bidding. Ukraine is privatizing one of their biggest energy companies.”
That Trump International Hotel meeting recorded in the tape fell on April 30, 2018, just three days after Fruman donated $100,000 to the House Majority Trust, a joint fundraising committee to support entities in the then-upcoming midterm elections.
Prosecutors claim Fruman misspelled his surname to disguise his donation and skirt campaign finance limitations.
Parnas’ description of his then-recently launched enterprise—both on that recording and in press interviews—echoes the description on the undated company summary, which pitched GEP as a vehicle for reshaping the geopolitical energy balance.
“GEP can significantly reduce the political imbalance which some countries, most notably Russia, have exploited over recent decades. In tandem with the exportation and shipping of [liquefied natural gas] from the U.S., we are simultaneously in talks to build new LNG liquefication terminals on the east coast of the United States, helping to facilitate strong exporting volumes,” the document says.
The next sentence announces an imminent relationship with a Malaysian energy giant ranked among the Forbes Global 500: “GEP is currently finalizing product allocations with the likes of Petronas, as well as contracts with several European and Eastern European counties/entities who wish to purchase LNG directly from GEP”
Emails obtained by Courthouse News show how GEP employees used pro-Trump fundraisers to find investors.
In one August email, Parnas and Fruman’s co-defendant David Correia mentioned meeting an investor at an America First retreat in Washington, an apparent reference to the pro-Trump super PAC’s six-figure-a-head fundraiser held in June 2018.
“This information outlines the company’s business model, as well as our driving principles,” Correia wrote in that email.
Correia’s attorney Jeffrey Marcus, a partner at the Florida-based firm Marcus Neiman & Rashbaum, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
GEP contributed $325,000 to America First Action on May 17, 2018—the company’s largest donation and one that federal prosecutors flagged in the indictment.
In a separate email, Parnas’ personal assistant tried to interest GEP’s mailing list in bundling donations to Nevada’s then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who was running at the time to become the state’s governor.
“As you may know, Nevada is a battle ground state,” the October fundraising email states. “The national implications for this race are huge. President Trump will have a hard time winning Nevada with a Democrat as governor.”
Noting that Nevada planned to redistrict in 2020, the email warned that a Democratic win could mean: “[T]hey may never have a [R]epublican win statewide there again.”
After Parnas, Fruman, and Correia’s arrest last October, news outlets unmasked Laxalt as the unidentified “Candidate-1” of the indictment—and he faced questions about Fruman’s $10,000 donation to him.
Ultimately losing the election to Democratic candidate Stephen Sisolak, Laxalt’s term as attorney general ended on Jan. 7. Laxalt, who is now a partner at the Nevada-based firm Cooper & Kirk, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Federal prosecutors claim that Fruman’s donation to Laxalt had been designed to facilitate obtaining a license for a recreational marijuana business, which allegedly had been secretly funded by an unnamed Russian national.
Though prosecutors claim that the men hatched their plan for the marijuana business in July 2018, Parnas apparently regaled Trump with a detailed pitch about why legalizing cannabis would be a winning midterm elections issue months earlier, at the recorded meeting in his hotel.
“Do you think the whole marijuana thing is a good thing?” Trump’s voice can be heard asking Parnas.
To that question, Parnas had a detailed and granular reply for the president, calling cannabis an issue commanding support by millennial voters, pointing to its medical benefits and proposing a commission to study the issue.
“I think you need to be ahead of it,” Parnas said. “I think you need to control it.”
Though Trump’s Republican Party never took that advice before the midterm elections, the president could be heard remarking that marijuana can be used to treat opioid addiction, and his son Don Jr.’s voice chimed in that cannabis is less harmful than alcohol.
Details about Parnas, Fruman and Correia’s marijuana enterprise fell in the section of the indictment charging the men with illegally funneling foreign money into U.S. elections, but Bondy noted the co-defendant in that count—Andrey Kukushkin—never came up during that conversation.
Himself a prominent attorney and consultant for marijuana companies, Bondy remarked that his client’s exchange with the president would not have been out of place for pro-legalization advocacy groups like the National Organization for the Reform of Marijuana Laws.
In that conversation, Bondy said, Parnas had become a message carrier for the movement.