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A Russian-American businessman known for his political fundraising and lobbying has lost a lawsuit brought by a Ukrainian developer who sued him over promised but never delivered tickets for President Donald Trump’s inauguration in 2017.
The US District Court’s ruling against Yuri Vanetik concludes a subplot that emerged early in the Trump presidency amid scrutiny of his business dealings in Russia, a special counsel’s investigation into interference Russian election and Ukrainian lobbying for the Trump White House.
In his 2019 lawsuit, Pavel Fuks, a Ukrainian-Russian developer, accused Vanetik of defrauding him after Fuks paid $200,000 for what he believed were exclusive tickets to Trump’s two-year inauguration. earlier.
Vanetik failed to provide the promised tickets, Fuks alleged, and instead ended up watching the inauguration at a bar in a Washington, DC hotel.
California federal court Judge Fernando Aenlle-Rocha ultimately found Fuks’ evidence, which included WhatsApp messages and emails, compelling and on July 19 ordered Vanetik to repay Fuks $200,000.
“Defendant did not provide any tickets to a cabinet dinner, the inaugural parade, the inaugural concert and fireworks, or the presidential swearing-in ceremony,” the judge wrote. “Similarly, while Defendant sent a car to drive Plaintiff to an event at a mid-rise building overlooking the Capitol, that event appears to have ended the moment Plaintiff and his guests arrived.”
In a message to RFE/RL, Vanetik said he planned to appeal the decision. He also noted that he filed a separate countersuit in state court in 2021, accusing Fuks of defamation, fraud and being “a notorious criminal, specializing in transnational money laundering, schemes fraud and extortion”, and to be “an agent of Russia”. intelligence.”
This case is still pending.
Fuks could not immediately be reached for comment.
US law prohibits foreign nationals from purchasing tickets to attend US presidential inaugurations and official parties hosted by political committees. The ban aims to curb foreign influence on presidential administrations.
Yet foreigners circumvent this ban and regularly attend openings as guests of American donors, which is permitted.
In the months following Trump’s inauguration, federal prosecutors investigated whether outsiders illegally funneled money to Trump’s inaugural committee.
Trump Inauguration Chairman Thomas Barrack was questioned by Special Counsel Robert Mueller about Inauguration funding and foreign donations. Barrack was later charged on related charges of unlawful lobbying as a foreign agent.
Vanetik, a Russian-born American citizen, has been an integral part of Republican politics in California for years, raising funds and lobbying Republicans in Congress, including former Representative Dana Rohrabacher.
In December 2016, a month after Trump was elected, Vanetik opened an office in Kyiv for a lobbying firm called Medowood. He then registered with the US Department of Justice as a foreign agent representing a Ukrainian businessman named Valeriy Babych.
Fuks, meanwhile, is a longtime property developer from the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv, who in 2017 hired Rudy Giuliani to help lobby the United States on behalf of Kharkiv, and of Ukraine more broadly.
Giuliani then worked as Trump’s personal lawyer and worked with other prominent Ukrainians to unearth information that would be embarrassing to former Vice President Joe Biden. At Giuliani’s efforts ultimately led to Trump’s first impeachment in 2019.
Years earlier, Fuks, who made millions building Moscow real estate in the 2000s and later invested in oil and gas projects in Ukraine, negotiated with Trump the possibility of building a branded skyscraper. Trump in Moscow. Negotiations ended unsuccessfully.
Other criminal charges stemming from investigations into Trump’s inauguration included that of Washington lobbyist Samuel Patten, who pleaded guilty of helping a Ukrainian oligarch illegally buy four tickets to Trump’s inauguration and of working illegally as a lobbyist for Ukrainian politicians without registering as a foreign agent.
The Ukrainian oligarch in question was later identified as Serhiy Lyovochkin, who was allied with the Opposition Bloc, a pro-Russian Ukrainian political party.
Patten worked closely with a Russian-American lobbyist named Rinat Akhmetshin, who was later identified as the person who purchased the tickets on Lyovochkin’s behalf.
Akhmetshin, who was interviewed by Mueller investigators, has not been charged with any crime.