Biden Faces Renewed Scrutiny Over Son’s Relationship To Ukrainian Gas Company

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Molly Prince Politics Reporter
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  • Hunter Biden was appointed to the board of directors of a Ukranian company as part of an effort to recruit well-connected Americans while the company was under investigation, according to The New York Times.
  • Then-Vice President Joe Biden played a role in pressuring Ukraine to oust the country’s top prosector, Viktor Shokin, who was investigating the company, Burisma.
  • Shokin’s successor initially ended the investigation into Burisma, but decided in March 2019 to reopen it.

A Ukrainian gas company gave a seat on its board to the son of former Vice President Joe Biden in an attempt to secure relationships with Democrats while it was under multiple investigations, according to a recent New York Times report.

Biden largely took credit for pressuring Ukraine into removing its top prosecutor, who was leading those probes. Ukraine recently relaunched an investigation into the company, the Times reported Wednesday, and President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, Rudy Giuliani, has repeatedly called for the U.S. Department of Justice to scrutinize the Bidens.

Hunter Biden was appointed to the four-member board of Burisma Holdings, Ukraine’s largest privately owned gas company, in April 2014. The seat came while the elder Biden was serving in former President Barack Obama’s administration and was slated to head relations with Ukraine for the administration.

Burisma is a natural gas exploration and production company owned by Mykola Zlochevsky, a cabinet member of former Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovich. Yanukovich was removed from his position in February 2014. He currently lives in exile in Russia and is wanted by Ukraine for high treason.

Zlochevsky later fled the country in late-2014 as Ukrainian prosecutors launched investigations into his time in public office as well as his private businesses. Around the same time, the U.K. Serious Fraud Office froze $23 million in a London account that was linked to Zlochevsky. A British court later unblocked the bank accounts in January 2015 and “found no grounds for further consideration of the case,” according to The Kyiv Post.

Roughly two years after Hunter Biden’s appointment to Burisma’s board, the vice president traveled to Kiev, Ukraine’s capital, where he threatened that the U.S. would withhold $1 billion in loan guarantees unless Ukraine ousted its prosecutor general, Viktor Shokin. At the time, Shokin was accused of ignoring corruption within his own political office.

But Shokin was also investigating corruption within Burisma.

Several investigations into Burisma, which included possible tax evasion and money laundering, preceded Shokin’s time as prosecutor general. But he also launched a separate investigation into gas licenses that Zlochevsky issued while serving in his official capacity in the Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources, according to the Times. Shokin was fired from the prosecutorial position days after Biden’s arrival and subsequent pressure campaign in Kiev.

U.S. officials reportedly stated that the British prosecution crumbled after Shokin stepped down and the succeeding Ukrainian prosecutor general declined to cooperate. (RELATED: Tensions Grow Between Obama Admin, Ukraine)

Hunter Biden, who did not previously have any experience in the eastern European country, was paid up to $50,000 per month for his work with Burisma, according to financial disclosures. Only months before he accepted the position as a board member, the Navy Reserve had discharged him after failing a drug test, which tested positive for cocaine.

“I have had no role whatsoever in relation to any investigation of Burisma, or any of its officers,” Hunter Biden told the Times. “I explicitly limited my role to focus on corporate governance best practices to facilitate Burisma’s desire to expand globally.”

But he was appointed to Burisma’s board to “be in charge of the holdings’ legal unit and will provide support for the company among international organizations,” a press release obtained by the Times said.

Hunter Biden said Burisma’s release was a mischaracterization, saying that “at no time was [he] in charge of the company’s legal affairs.”

“At no time have I discussed with my father the company’s business, or my board service, including my initial decision to join the board,” Hunter Biden’s statement to the Times continued.

Joe Biden’s role with Ukraine has been well documented, but a new report detailed Burisma’s endeavor to onboard “well-connected Democrats” such as Hunter Biden and his American business partners, reported the Times. At the time, the company was under investigation not just by the Ukrainian government, but by the U.S. government as well.

Ukraine’s prosecutor general who replaced Shokin, Yuriy Lutsenko, decided in March 2019 to reopen the investigation into Burisma, The Hill first confirmed. Lutsenko also happened to be the same prosecutor who had previously cleared Hunter Biden’s employer and fully closed the investigation.

The move was revealed during the country’s 2019 election and was largely seen as a strategic attempt for President Petro Poroshenko to become an ally of Trump, reported the Times. But Poroshenko ultimately lost re-election by an overwhelming vote.

Weeks after Lutsenko’s announcement to relaunch a probe into Burisma, Biden declared that he would seek the Democratic nomination for president in 2020. Hunter Biden stepped down from the board that same month.

President-elect Volodymyr Zelensky said he would replace Lutsenko, but it’s not clear if the investigation will continue with the administration change. Regardless, Trump’s team has seized upon the possible corruption and have encouraged further investigations, most notably from Giuliani, according to the Times.

Former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani speaks to reporters at Trump Tower, January 12, 2017 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Rudy Giuliani speaks to reporters at Trump Tower, Jan. 12, 2017 in New York City. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Giuliani’s interest in the affair stemmed from special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into Russian meddling during the 2016 U.S. election. He contended that Democrats conspired with Ukrainians to kick off what became Mueller’s investigation.

“I can assure you this all started with an allegation about possible Ukrainian involvement in the investigation of Russian meddling, and not Biden,” Giuliani told the Times. “The Biden piece is collateral to the bigger story, but must still be investigated, but without the prejudgments that infected the collusion story.”

Giuliani reportedly sat down with Lutsenko in New York on various occasions over the past year. He confirmed to the Times that he discussed his meetings with the president. Trump has subsequently proposed that Attorney General William Barr review the investigation’s findings, as well as other possible alliances between Ukraine and the United States, according to the Times.

The White House did not return The Daily Caller News Foundation’s request for comment.

Biden’s campaign characterized the revived investigation as politically motivated, despite Lutsenko’s denial that there was any political motivation in doing so.

Biden campaign spokeswoman Kate Bedingfield said the former vice president’s 2016 efforts to remove Shokin was done “without any regard for how it would or would not impact any business interests of his son, a private citizen.”

The ousting was in line with “the United States’ foreign policy to root out corruption in Ukraine” she told the Times. In fact, it was not only supported by the Obama administration, but other institutions such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank, Bedingfield said.

Biden’s campaign did not return TheDCNF’s request for comment.

The Obama administration also backed Zlochevsky’s prosecution. The State Department’s then-coordinator for international energy affairs, Amos Hochstein, worked with Biden on Ukrainian matters. Hochstein contended this backing is further evidence that the vice president was not working on behalf of his son’s interest.

“I was in almost every single meeting that Vice President Biden had with President Poroshenko. I was on every trip, and I was on most of the phone calls, and there was never a discussion about his son or Burisma,” Hochetein told the Times. “None of these issues ever came up.”

But Hunter Biden was part of Burisma’s larger effort to recruit well-connected Americans that would assist in both legal and branding issues, the Times reported.

In the wake of his father’s ascent to the vice presidency, the younger Biden formed Rosemont Seneca Partners with Christopher Heinz, the stepson of former Secretary of State John Kerry, who at the time was still a U.S. senator, according to The New York Post. Devon Archer, a Kerry family friend, also joined in the venture.

Archer accepted a role on Burisma’s board of directors in 2014 at roughly the same time Burisma hired the law firm Boies Schiller Flexner. Boies Schiller was Hunter Biden’s employer at the time, and the exact nature of Burisma’s contract with the law firm is unclear. Hunter Biden was also appointed to Burisma’s board less than a year after Archer.

Vice President Joe Biden waves as he walks out of Air Force Two with his granddaughter Finnegan Biden and son Hunter Biden (Ng Han Guan-Pool/Getty Images)

Joe Biden waves with his granddaughter Finnegan Biden and son Hunter Biden. (Ng Han Guan-Pool/Getty Images)

Hunter Biden helped onboard the consulting firm Blue Star Strategies, which was tasked with warding off the mounting investigations into Burisma. Blue Star was headed up by members of the Clinton administration who had experience in Ukraine, reported the Times.

A team from the consulting firm traveled to Kiev on two separate occasions to hold unreported meetings with Lutsenko, according to the Times. One member of the team was John Buretta, who served as a senior Justice Department official under Obama. Lutsenko reportedly denied that he had attended the meetings.

Less than a year after replacing Shokin, Lutsenko “fully closed” any “legal proceedings and pending criminal allegations” against both Burisma and Zlochevsky. Zlochevsky subsequently returned to Ukraine from exile.

Hunter Biden’s work in Ukraine while his father served as Obama’s point man on U.S. relations with the country appears to have been lucrative, according to financial reports provided by the Ukrainian deputy prosecutor. Between April 2014 and late-2015, Burisma paid Rosemont Seneca Bohai LLC $3.4 million.

Archer, who had the controlling interest in Rosemont Seneca Bohai, stepped down from the Burisma after the U.S. Department of Justice charged him with defrauding an American Indian tribe and investors of over $60 million. Archer was convicted of the charge, but it was later overturned. However, Rosemont Seneca Bohai had been regularly paying Hunter Biden as much as $50,000 each month, according to the bank records placed in the Manhattan federal court.

Hunter Biden resigned from Burisma’s board of directors in April 2019, saying that his term had expired. He added in a statement that his “qualifications and work are being attacked by Rudy Giuliani and his minions for transparent political purposes.”

Hunter Biden did not return TheDCNF’s request for comment.

Editor’s note: This post has been updated to reflect that Archer, Hunter Biden and Heinz together formed Rosemont Seneca Partners. A previous version said they formed Rosemont Capital. It also removed language regarding the LLCs and the Heinz family.

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