South Florida oil magnate tangled in Trump impeachment inquiry

Harry Sargeant III is among a trio of Florida businessmen who touted connections to Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani, AP reported.
Harry Sargeant III is known in Florida political circles.
Harry Sargeant III is known in Florida political circles. [ Times files ]
Published Oct. 7, 2019

FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. — A South Florida oil magnate and former state GOP finance chairman was involved in Ukrainian business dealings under scrutiny because of the President Donald Trump impeachment inquiry, The Associated Press reported Sunday night.

Harry Sargeant III, a Gulf Stream resident, is among a trio of Florida businessmen who touted connections to Trump and his personal lawyer Rudy Giuliani while trying to install new management at the top of Ukraine’s massive state gas company, AP reported.

The goal was to steer lucrative contracts to companies controlled by Trump allies, two people with knowledge of their plans told the AP.

The business dealings came at the same time as Giuliani was pushing Ukrainian officials to investigate former vice president Joe Biden, Trump’s political rival and Democratic candidate for president, the AP reported.

Sargeant is known in Florida political circles. The Tampa Bay Times reported in 2013 a plaque at the Pi Kappa Alpha House at Florida State University called him “the most powerful man no one knows.”

Sargeant, his wife and corporate entities tied to the family have donated at least $1.2 million to Republican campaigns and political action committees over the last 20 years, including $100,000 in June to the Trump Victory Fund, the AP reported, citing campaign finance records.

A former fighter pilot in the U.S. Marine Corps, Sargeant was the finance chairman of the Florida Republican Party and a fraternity brother and close friend of former Gov. Charlie Crist.

Sargeant, 61, owns a home valued at $10.6 million in Gulf Stream, according to Palm Beach County property records.

Sargeant’s company, International Oil Trading Co., won $2.7 billion in contracts during the Iraq War to supply the military with fuel.

A 2011 audit found Sargeant’s company overcharged the Pentagon by up to $204 million for fuel. In a 2008 letter, former Democratic U.S. Rep. Henry Waxman accused Sargeant’s company of engaging in a “reprehensible form of war profiteering.”

In May 2018, the U.S. government settled and agreed to pay $40 million to International Oil Trading Co. Sargeant called the settlement “a full vindication” in an interview with Reuters.

Sargeant worked with Soviet-born Florida real estate entrepreneurs, Lev Parnas and Igor Fruman, on a plan to replace the Ukrainian state gas company’s CEO Andriy Kobolyev with another senior executive at the company, Andrew Favorov, according to two individuals who spoke to the AP as well as a memorandum about the meeting that was later submitted to the U.S. Embassy in Kiev.

The Miami Herald reported that Parnas lives in Boca Raton, and Fruman owns property in Sunny Isles Beach. The AP has dubbed the duo Giuliani’s “Florida fixers.”

Parnas and Fruman are recent GOP political donors, having contributed $325,000 to a Trump-allied political action committee. The AP reported this helped the relatively unknown entrepreneurs gain access to meetings with Trump at the White House and Mar-a-Lago.