Ukraine Denies Paying Trump Lawyer for White House Meeting


A NY taxi operator pleaded guilty Tuesday to improperly pocketing $5 million in state tax money and has agreed to cooperate with federal prosecutors as they investigate President Trump's personal attorney, Michael Cohen, according to a person familiar with the case.

Petro Poroshenko's office issued a statement to RFE/RL on May 23, hours after the BBC published a report saying the payment to the lawyer, Michael Cohen, was arranged by intermediaries acting for Poroshenko who wanted to open a back channel to Trump.

As part of the NY probe, prosecutors are investigating Cohen for possible campaign finance violations and bank fraud.

With Freidman's plea, Cohen may now need to weigh whether to begin talks with prosecutors before they amass enough evidence from other sources to make his cooperation unnecessary.

The plea by Freidman, a taxi operator who was charged with failing to pay US$5 million (S$6.7 million) in taxes, could provide the government with a new source of information about Mr Cohen.

Michael Avenatti - who has uncovered details of Mr Cohen's finances - said Suspicious Activity Reports filed by Mr Cohen's bank to the US Treasury showed he had received money from "Ukrainian interests", according to the BBC. The plea is part of an apparent deal to serve as a potential witness in state and federal probes.

According to people with knowledge of his pitches, Cohen said he had the ultimate access to President Trump, while Lewandowski wouldn't be able to get things done. The charges could have resulted in years in prison if he'd been convicted.

CNN previously reported the Federal Bureau of Investigation searches included a request for documents related to Cohen's ownership of taxi medallions and sought information about taxi owners who had financial dealings with Cohen. "'Gene Freidman and I are not partners and have never been partners in this business or any other.' #MediaWrongAgain".

Freidman pleaded guilty in Albany to one count of evading $50,000 worth of taxes. He's known as the "Taxi King" of NY and the reporting that has come out about his importance has been fascinating.

Cohen's fee was for getting Poroshenko more than just an embarrassingly brief few minutes of small talk and a handshake, the senior official said.

It suggests that Cohen broke a USA law requiring people to register as lobbyists for foreign governments.

By 2003, Cohen owned a fleet of 200 taxi cabs, working in partnership with a Ukrainian immigrant named Simon Garber.

Freidman has for years managed a number of taxi medallions for Cohen in New York City and Chicago, and the pair have been friends since the 1990s.