WASHINGTON — When Rudy Giuliani went to Madrid in August to confer with a top aide to the Ukrainian president and press for political investigations sought by President Trump, he also met with a previously unidentified client with very different interests.
In Spain, Giuliani stayed at a historic estate belonging to Venezuelan energy executive Alejandro Betancourt López, who had hired Trump’s personal attorney to help him contend with an investigation by the US Justice Department into alleged money laundering and bribery, according to people familiar with the situation.
A month later, Giuliani was one of several lawyers representing Betancourt in Washington. The lawyers met with the chief of the Justice Department’s criminal division and other government attorneys to argue the Venezuelan should not face criminal charges in a $1.2 billion money-laundering case filed in Florida last year, said the people, who, like others in this report, spoke on condition of anonymity.
The criminal complaint alleges top officials of the Venezuelan state-owned oil company, elite business leaders, and bankers conspired to steal money from the company and then launder it through Miami real estate purchases and other investment schemes.
Betancourt is not one of the eight men charged, a group that includes his cousin. But a person familiar with the matter said he is referred to in the complaint as an uncharged co-conspirator, as previously reported by the Miami Herald.
Giuliani’s representation of Betancourt — not previously disclosed — is a striking example of how Trump’s lawyer has continued to offer his services to foreign clients with interests before the US government while working on behalf of the president. And it shows how Giuliani — who says he was serving as Trump’s attorney pro bono — has used his work for paying clients to help underwrite his efforts to find political ammunition in Ukraine to benefit the president.
In response to questions about his relationship with Betancourt, Giuliani wrote in a text, ‘‘This is attorney client privilege so I will withstand whatever malicious lies or spin you put on it.’’
Eric Creizman, an attorney for Giuliani, declined to comment. Jon Sale, an attorney for Betancourt, said his client denies wrongdoing. He declined to comment on Betancourt’s relationship with Giuliani.
The Justice Department declined to comment on the meeting. Justice Department officials were unaware of the Madrid meeting when Giuliani came to meet them, according to a senior Justice official, who said the topic of Ukraine did not come up in the discussion.
Giuliani, a former New York City mayor and top federal prosecutor in Manhattan, is now under scrutiny by the US attorney’s office he once led, which has filed campaign finance charges against two of his associates, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman. Investigators are examining Giuliani’s consulting business as part of a broad probe in a raft of possible crimes, including wire fraud and foreign lobbying violations, according to people familiar with the matter.
Giuliani is also a key figure in the ongoing House impeachment inquiry into Trump, in which top government officials have testified the president’s lawyer led a shadow effort to pressure Ukraine to announce investigations into Trump’s rivals in exchange for a White House meeting.
Trump had urged US officials hoping to broker a good relationship between him and newly elected Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to work with Giuliani, according to congressional testimony.
On July 25, Trump asked Zelensky to pursue the investigations into Democrats. Days later, Giuliani headed to Madrid to meet Andriy Yermak, a top aide to Zelensky, to cement the deal, according to Giuliani and congressional testimony.
Giuliani told The Post in September that Yermak had offered to the come to the United States, but he suggested Spain. ‘‘I told him I was already going to be in Madrid . . . so why don’t we just meet there?’’
The purpose of the Aug. 2 sit-down: to spell out two cases Trump wanted Ukraine to pursue, Giuliani told The Post in September. One was a probe of a Ukrainian gas tycoon who had former vice president Joe Biden’s son Hunter Biden on his board. Another was a claim that Democrats colluded with Ukraine to release information on former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort during the 2016 election.
Yermak, according to Giuliani, indicated the Ukrainians were open to pursuing the investigations. The aide reiterated the Ukrainians’ plea for a meeting with Trump, a summit that would be an important signal to Russia of Washington’s support for Ukraine.
‘‘I talked to him about the whole package,’’ Giuliani said.
After the meeting, Yermak began circulating a draft of a statement the Ukrainians were considering issuing regarding their commitment to investigating corruption, according to text messages released as part of the House inquiry.
One of the main purposes of Giuliani’s travel to Spain was to meet with Betancourt, who has made a fortune in work for the Venezuelan government, said people familiar with the trip.
Betancourt, a young member of Venezuela’s elite who attended Suffolk University in Boston, cofounded a company that was awarded $1.8 billion in government contracts to build power plants under Venezuela’s former socialist president Hugo Chávez, leading to allegations the company bilked the government, The Wall Street Journal has reported.
The company, Derwick Associates, has denied paying bribes to win contracts and said the contracts reflected the high cost of doing business in the socialist country.