Why did recently sanctioned Russian developer Pavel Fuks pursue access to American politicians?

Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

There are malicious foreign actors working for countries that are adverse to America, constantly attempting to establish influence on our soil. One such operative is a toxic former Russian developer, Pavel Fuks.  Mr. Fuks claims that he recently traded in his Russian passport for Ukrainian, although his assertions about his citizenship and allegiances have faced a formidable challenge from his many detractors.  He is a convicted criminal and has been under investigation in several countries for corruption, money laundering, fraud, murder for hire and drug trafficking.

Mr. Fuks attempted to strong-arm his way into official inaugural events during President Trump’s inauguration, which he attended together with a Ukrainian politician Vitaly Khomutynnik and his wife, Svitlana, who were likely dupes in Mr. Fuks’ efforts to gain access to Washington. Undeterred, Mr. Fuks hired a sanctioned elections meddler and alleged Russian agent, Andrei Telezhenko, and other shady fixers to gain access to Rudy Giuliani, and succeeded in hiring the Mayor of New York, later declaring the Mayor and Trump’s personal attorney was a lobbyist for Kharkov, an allegation that Mr. Giuliani denied. To infiltrate America, Mr. Fuks secured a U.S. visa and even applied for residency in the U.S., buying luxury residences in Fisher Island, Florida.

Pavel Fuks was once a darling of the Kremlin and was even given an award by President Putin for his “contributions to the Russian economy.” A former Moscow socialite, Fuks attempted to develop skyscrapers in Moscow. He fled from Russia as his projects collapsed, giving way to lawsuits, mob threats, investigations, and criminal charges, which inevitably turned into arrest warrants and a conviction. With a curious criminal alias, “The Mercenary”, Mr. Fuks is alleged to be both an informant for the Russian intelligence services and a member of an East European criminal organization in a recent lawsuit filed in the U.S., where he is accused of racketeering.

When he fled from Russia, Fuks found a haven to grow his crime syndicate in the city of Kharkov, Ukraine, a major industrial hub bordering Russia. In Kharkov he was under the protection of the then powerful Mayor with a criminal history of his own, Gennady Kernes.  After Kernes’ death, Mr. Fuks began to seize power.

The list of the crimes he has committed is extensive and now he is allegedly spearheading a Kharkov-based criminal syndicate. From attempting to launder billions in embezzled state assets associated with Ukraine’s former President Yanukovych to enabling distribution of narcotics, Mr. Fuks’ criminal footprint is formidable.

Several Ukrainian media outlets have detailed Pavel Fuks’ alleged involvement in heroin trafficking into Europe. In March of 2019, significant events occurred that confirmed those suspicions which brought attention to an international cartel group. Ukrainian law enforcement raided a warehouse in Kyiv Ukraine that Fuks owns and seized over $50 million in heroin. According to the head of the National Police of Ukraine, Sergey Knyazev, drug dealers used Kyiv as a “warehouse” for prohibited substances and then transported them to other states.  As for the role of Fuks in this scheme, it was he who established the supply of drugs from the countries of Central Asia. ”

More recently he has been accused of selling gray market COVID-19 vaccines of dubious origin.  Mr. Fuks’ payments from U.S. accounts even appear in the documents of one of the most secret divisions of the US Treasury Department for the fight against financial crimes – FinCEN.

The Mercenary’s luck may be running out. President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky began challenging gangsters, corrupt tycoons and Russian provocateurs. Mr. Fuks seems to check these boxes.  President Zelensky has signed a decree imposing sanctions on 312 individuals and 103 legal entities. In particular, by his decree, Zelensky imposed broad economic sanctions against businessmen Dmytro Firtash and Pavel Fuks. The decree was published on the president’s website.

A press conference held June 18, 2021, featuring the chair of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine announced the designations. These sanctions aim to diminish criminal influence of entrenched crooked elites that pay off judges and prosecutors, and generally buy their way out of enforcement actions. According to Alexander Dulskyi, partner in the law firm Voychenko & Dulskyi, “NSDC Sanctions are controversial.  They are aimed at major criminals but are not based on convictions or formal charges. They aim to curtail the designated party’s economic activities in Ukraine.”

It appears that Ukrainians have had enough of Mr. Fuks’ and his gang’s terror. After the sanctions were imposed, a demonstration was held against “Russian agents of influence” who they believe are attempting to destroy Ukraine. They were chanting “Russian Fuks to Russian prison”. The demonstrators demanded that Mr. Fuks either be deported or used in a prisoner exchange with Russia.

President Biden is scheduled to host President Zelensky at the White House end of August.  This meeting comes at a challenging time in the alliance between Washington and Kyiv. The U.S. is growing more disappointed with Ukraine’s lackluster struggle with organized crime, while it plans to move forward with Germany on the highly controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline.

Thankfully, Pavel Fuks and his gang’s efforts to infiltrate Washington failed for now.  He is no longer allowed in the U.S., a fact he deeply resents as it may diminish his utility for his handlers.  The Biden administration should be mindful of nefarious foreign agents of influence with ties to Russian intelligence and East European gangs.  Some of them may be less obvious than the Mercenary Fuks.

Mark Anthony

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