US federal agents have searched the Manhattan home and office of Rudy Giuliani, former President Donald Trump’s attorney, a law enforcement official says.
The raid marks an escalation of the investigation into the Ukrainian business dealings of Mr Giuliani.
Mr Giuliani’s lawyer, Bob Costello, confirmed search warrants had been executed, and that authorities had seized mobile phones.
Mr Giuliani, 76, did not immediately respond to a request for comment as members of the media assembled outside his apartment.
The warrants included an allegation that Mr Giuliani failed to register as a foreign agent, a violation of lobbying laws.
Mr Costello told the New York Times, which first reported news of the search, that agents showed up at dawn on Wednesday (local time) and labelled the raids “legal thuggery.”
Prior to the 2020 presidential election, Mr Giuliani led an effort to dig up dirt on then-Democratic contender Joe Biden and his son Hunter in Ukraine.
Mr Biden defeated the Republican Trump and is now President. He and his son have denied wrongdoing.
In a statement, Mr Costello defended his client and suggested the investigation was politically motivated.
“Mayor Giuliani has not only denied this allegation, but offered twice in the past two years through his lawyer Bob Costello to demonstrate that it is entirely untrue,” the statement said.
“Twice the offer was rejected.”
Mr Costello said the electronics seized were “replete” with information protected by attorney-client privilege.
The statement also claimed the only electronics in Mr Giuliani’s possession that contained evidence of crimes were “the Hunter Biden hard drives”.
Mr Giuliani later tweeted the statement to his 1.1 million followers on Twitter.
A spokesman for US Attorney Audrey Strauss in Manhattan declined to comment.
Federal agents also executed a search warrant on Wednesday at the home of Victoria Toensing and Joseph diGenova, who are spouses, Giuliani associates and former prosecutors, and seized Toensing’s mobile phone.
Ms Toensing and Mr diGenova have also represented Dmytro Firtash, a Ukrainian oligarch who has been indicted in the United States on bribery and racketeering charges and has fought extradition from Vienna.
Federal prosecutors have been looking at Mr Giuliani for nearly 18 months.
In November 2019, they sought records of payments to Mr Giuliani as part of an active criminal investigation, according to a grand jury subpoena seen by Reuters.
Prosecutors were investigating money laundering, wire fraud, campaign finance violations, making false statements, obstruction of justice and violations of the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), the subpoena said.
FARA requires “certain agents of foreign principals” to periodically disclose their relationships with them, including financial transactions.
While the search warrant does not mean Mr Giuliani committed a crime, it signals that investigators had reason to believe criminal conduct had occurred, and convinced a judge that a search might uncover evidence of a crime.
“This is a seismic moment in the investigation,” said Jessica Levinson, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles.
“It’s a big deal to execute a search warrant concerning an lawyer because of issues of attorney-client privilege,” she added. “It’s a bigger deal to execute a search warrant of an lawyer who worked for the former president.”
Mr Giuliani gained renown in the 1980s as Manhattan’s top federal prosecutor, taking on leaders of top Mafia families and Wall Street’s “junk bond king” Michael Milken.
He later won national fame as “America’s Mayor” for helping New York City recover from the September 11, 2001, attacks, and was named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
But Mr Giuliani’s image was stained by his dealings with Ukraine, and more recently by his promotion of baseless claims of fraud to overturn last year’s election results and give Mr Trump a second White House term.