FBI agents have asked about Giuliani’s consulting on Romania

Investigators are looking for information beyond Rudy Giuliani's Ukraine work.

FBI agents have asked about Giuliani’s consulting on Romania

WASHINGTON — It’s not just Ukraine. Justice Department investigators have asked questions about Rudy Giuliani’s work connected to Romania, according to two people familiar with the probe into former U.S. President Donald Trump’s personal lawyer.

Last month, FBI agents raided Giuliani’s New York City apartment and office to seize phones and computers as part of an investigation of whether Giuliani violated the law in his work for foreign entities, including the Foreign Agents Registration Act. Giuliani has said that he “never, ever represented a foreign national” and says he specifically puts in his contracts that he won’t lobby on behalf of or represent foreign entities.

In 2018, Giuliani wrote a letter to Romanian President Klaus Iohannis in which he decried the “excesses” of Romania’s National Anticorruption Directorate and called for an amnesty for people who had been convicted of crimes initiated by that body in recent years.

What Giuliani didn’t mention in the letter was that he wrote it on behalf of the Freeh Group, a consulting firm started by former FBI director Louis Freeh, which paid the former mayor a retainer to work on the Romania project. In 2018, Giuliani declined to reveal the amount, and his letter is the only Romania-related work he did that is known to the public. Gabriel “Puiu” Popoviciu, a Romanian property mogul who was sentenced to seven years in prison in a real estate fraud case, had hired Freeh in 2016 to review the evidence against him. The Freeh Group found “numerous factual and legal deficiencies” in the legal case that led to his conviction. A spokesperson for the Romanian president told POLITICO that Iohannis never replied to the letter.

Popoviciu in 2015 had also hired Hunter Biden, the son of then-Vice President Joe Biden, to help put an end to the fraud investigation against him. Hunter Biden had reportedly stopped working for Popoviciu by the time Giuliani got involved in 2018. Giuliani has severely criticized Hunter Biden for his ties to foreign companies, including in Ukraine and China.

Popoviciu and his business partners have owned Pizza Hut and KFC franchises and branches of foreign hotel chains in Romania. The controversy is centered around land that was bought for a bargain basement price in northern Bucharest that became a top-flight shopping mall, offices, and luxury car showrooms. The new U.S. embassy was also built on that land. Popoviciu, who at one point lived in New Jersey, was residing in London at the time of his arrest warrant in 2017, but soon surrendered and has fought his extradition back to Romania since.

When POLITICO called Popoviciu and texted him about Giuliani’s Romania work on Tuesday morning, he replied: “I don’t know anything about his interest in Romania. I met him there when he was invited by a private group for a speach [sic], but never kept a direct contact.”

Giuliani has not said much publicly about his work in Romania, except to tell The Guardian when asked whether his letter was related to Popoviciu’s case: “Overall situation not any one case. The letter speaks for itself. The rest you have to get from my client.” He also told POLITICO in 2018 that his letter “was based on a report I reviewed” by Freeh and that the Freeh Group was “paying my fee.”

Giuliani’s Romania activity has drawn the attention of federal investigators scrutinizing his foreign work. It means the probe of Giuliani has taken a wider lens than previously known. If Giuliani’s Romania work was solely to influence government officials there and did not target American audiences, then he would not have been required to disclose the work to the Department of Justice under the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

A DOJ spokesperson declined to comment. Asked for comment for this story, a lawyer for Giuliani, Robert Costello, said in a text message, “No idea about that. We have no such information.” Giuliani did not respond to a request for comment. Freeh and a representative of his current firm, AlixPartners, also didn’t respond to a request for comment.

One focus of the probe into Giuliani reportedly involves his ties to billionaire Ukrainian businessman Dmitry Firtash, who the U.S. government has charged with violating anti-corruption laws. Firtash has been in Vienna for years fighting extradition. The Giuliani probe is also reportedly focused on whether his efforts to oust former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Marie Yovanovitch was on Trump’s behalf or at the behest of Ukrainian officials who wanted her gone. Giuliani had planned a trip to Ukraine in 2019 that he later canceled where he was hoping to meet with the Ukrainian president-elect to push for inquiries into Hunter Biden’s work for a scandal-plagued Ukrainian energy company.

Ukraine and Romania are not the only countries outside the U.S. where Giuliani has found business. The former mayor was a partner at a law firm, Bracewell & Giuliani, that had an office in Kazakhstan. Giuliani’s consulting firm also worked with a state-run energy firm in Qatar, according to The Wall Street Journal, and he signed a contract to train law enforcement for Bahrain’s Interior Ministry in 2019.

Source : Politico EU More   

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Ministers show ‘complete lack of understanding’ of Boris Johnson’s leveling-up policy

Leveling up started as a policy about regional inequality, but is now so big that ministers appear confused about what it includes.

Ministers show ‘complete lack of understanding’ of Boris Johnson’s leveling-up policy

LONDON — Ministers have been accused of demonstrating “a complete lack of understanding” of the U.K. government’s leveling-up policy to spread wealth to disadvantaged parts of the country, which is meant to be at the heart of Boris Johnson’s premiership.

Leveling up featured prominently in the launch last week of the government’s legislative agenda for the next session of parliament. It promised a white paper to show how the commitment is being delivered later this year, while POLITICO revealed details of a new unit dedicated to its oversight. 

Business Minister Paul Scully and Housing Minister Luke Hall appeared in front of the cross-party business select committee on Tuesday to answer questions on how leveling up will be defined and measured. 

The ministers repeatedly referred to metrics which are already tracked by the government, such as raising productivity and ending rough sleeping, and appeared uncomfortable when asked what the key measures in the white paper would be. 

The mantra originally referred to reducing regional inequalities, but has since been used to refer to plans for improving a wider range of reforms in the areas of law and order, education and climate change.

It is widely seen as central to the Conservative strategy for retaining and expanding its gains in previously Labour-held areas of the country, and its progress or otherwise will inform the timing of the next election.

Clive Betts, Labour chairman of the housing committee, who took part in the session, put it to the ministers they were “talking in generalities,” while his party colleague Charlotte Nichols suggested it was “Schrödinger’s department — everything and nothing at same time.”

Conservative member Mark Pawsey complained: “I’m struggling to understand, because we haven’t got any metrics, where we need to be,” and fellow Tory Paul Howell warned that leveling up “needs to be measurable and understood at a local level” otherwise voters would lose confidence in the concept.

Hall replied it was “about improving life chances” and insisted there are metrics “which speak to this issue.” 

Scully offered: “It’s about improving outcomes right across the U.K. We can see the detachment that people feel about being remote from Westminster so it’s important we have a coherent strategy to deliver those outcomes for people.”

They told the committee that they expected Neil O’Brien, the prime minister’s newly appointed adviser on leveling up, would be able to produce answers to their questions. 

Darren Jones, Labour chairman of the business committee, concluded the session by saying: “Given leveling up is supposedly a flagship policy, I have to say this is one of the poorest ministerial sessions I’ve ever chaired.”

“There’s a complete lack of understanding and policy and direction on what leveling up is and on that basis we wish Neil O’Brien all the best.”

Source : Politico EU More   

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