Law & the Courts

Conflicting Reports Emerge on the Scope of the Hunter Biden Investigation

Joe Biden with his son Hunter as they walk down Pennsylvania Avenue, January 20, 2009. (Carlos Barria/Reuters)

A rare public statement from Hunter Biden confirmed Wednesday night that he is the subject of a federal investigation into his “tax affairs.” The revelation sparked a number of reports from the mainstream press — which had mostly ignored the story in the buildup to the election — that laid out both new and conflicting information.

Hunter delivered his statement through the Biden-Harris transition team, saying that he had learned Tuesday “for the first time” that the U.S. attorney’s office in Delaware was investigating him.

“I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisers,” his statement concluded.

The statement came after federal prosecutors served a round of subpoenas, including to Hunter Biden, on Tuesday, according to the New York Times and the Associated Press.

The Times, citing “former law enforcement officials,reported that the investigation began in 2018 and initially focused on tax evasion as well as money laundering but said the money-laundering angle “died out” due to lack of evidence. However, a number of other outlets, including Fox News, have suggested that the probe is broader than simply tax-related matters and still involves a money-laundering component.

It is rare that federal investigators reveal the full scope of an investigation to defense counsel, so Hunter’s claim that the probe relates solely to “tax affairs” may be the product of incomplete information or wishful thinking.

Hunter’s tax issues have been well known for some time. Earlier this year, the Washington Free Beacon reported that Hunter Biden was hit with a $453,000 lien that was filed on July 9 by the District of Columbia for unpaid state taxes, but the “issue was resolved” by July 15, according to D.C.’s Office of the Chief Financial Officer.

The AP included details from one source who revealed that “at least some” of the investigation’s scope related to Hunter Biden’s “past work in China.” CNN, which stressed in its lede that “Joe Biden is not implicated” in the investigation, reported that the probe relates to “multiple financial issues, including whether Hunter Biden and his associates violated tax and money laundering laws in business dealings in foreign countries, principally China.”

In an article titled “Justice Department’s interest in Hunter Biden covered more than taxes,” Politico reported that in late 2018, the securities-fraud unit of the Southern District of New York began to probe “foreign payments to Hunter Biden, looking for signs of money laundering,” after his business partner Devon Archer was convicted by the SDNY on fraud charges. But instead of opening a formal investigation, a source told Politico that the SDNY decided to end its probe because the U.S. attorney in Delaware already had an investigation that “was already well underway.”

Fox News reported that, according to a “well-placed government source,” Hunter Biden is a “subject/target” of the grand-jury investigation. Fox also cited multiple sources who said the investigation involved Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) from the Treasury Department flagging transactions involving “China and other foreign nations.” The centrality of SAR’s to the probe suggests a money-laundering component is involved.

In federal grand-jury investigations, suspects are classified as one of three things: a “target,” a “subject,” or a “witness.” A “target” is someone who has a high probability of being charged, while a “subject” is a person whose conduct is the subject of the grand jury’s inquiry, indicating he might or might not be charged depending on the investigation’s outcome. Those classified as witnesses are not suspected of criminal conduct, but could have information pertinent to the case.

Another point of contention among different reports is the status of Hunter Biden’s purported laptop, which the New York Post surfaced ahead of the election. Facebook and Twitter promptly suppressed the story. Both the Times and the AP cited anonymous sources who suggested the laptop was not material to the current investigation. CNN reported that “it’s unclear whether the laptop’s contents are relevant to the ongoing federal probe,” while Fox said that “two sources familiar with the investigation” said the investigation does include “looking at the laptop.”

The new reports build on information revealed by right-leaning outlets that scrutinized Hunter’s past business dealings ahead of the presidential election last month, after copies of the laptop’s hard drive were given to some outlets by Rudy Giuliani. After Giuliani shared the hard drive with the Post, a former Biden Hunter business partner named Tony Bobulinski came forward to confirm the emails found on the hard drive and made allegations of corrupt foreign relationships that implicated Joe Biden.

Bobulinksi said in interviews at the time that he was prompted by a September report orchestrated by senators Ron Johnson (R., Wis.) and Chuck Grassley (R., Iowa) of the Homeland Security and Finance Committees, respectively. The 87-page interim report detailed Treasury SARs that were flagged for “potential criminal activity” and showed millions in transactions between Hunter Biden, his business partners, and foreign nationals — including Elena Baturina, the wife of the corrupt former mayor of Moscow, and Ye Jianming, the founder of the now-defunct CEFC China Energy Co., Ltd.

In October, Fox News obtained an FBI subpoena showing that the laptop had been seized by the FBI’s Baltimore field office in late 2019 pursuant to a money-laundering investigation. A week later, Sinclair’s James Rosen cited a Justice Department official who said Hunter Biden and his associates were under criminal investigation on suspicion of money laundering. Bobulinski also told Rosen that, after he came forward with his allegations, the FBI interviewed him as a “material witness.”

While the mainstream press largely ignored the story at the time, over fears that it could be a foreign disinformation operation, past reporting — coupled with Bobulinksi’s claims and documents from the laptop — detailed how the Bidens had worked closely with Ye and Chi Ping Patrick Ho to form a new business venture.

Bobulinksi said in an extensive statement to Fox News that he had been approached by Hunter Biden and James Gilliar, a British businessman, to be CEO of Sinohawk Holdings, designed as “a partnership between the Chinese operating through CEFC/Chairman Ye and the Biden family.” He also alleged that a May 2017 email that was recovered from the laptop and details a proposed Sinohawk equity split — including “10 held by H for the big guy?” — references Joe Biden as “the Big Guy.”

“The Biden family aggressively leveraged the Biden family name to make millions of dollars from foreign entities even though some were from communist controlled China,” he explained.

Multiple past reports in the New York Times and The New Yorker further detailed the Biden family’s relationship with Ye, Ho, and CEFC.

Ho was indicted by the SDNY in December 2017 on international-money-laundering charges and violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act, after serving as “a corporate leader and a diplomatic envoy of sorts,” according to the Times. Though the article does not mention the Bidens, the Times notes that “CEFC has played to China’s geopolitical ambitions” by becoming “a major player in the China’s plans for a modern day Silk Road” through the pursuit of international business deals.

In 2018, the Times detailed how CEFC and the Bidens, particularly through Hunter and James Biden — the brother of Joe — became close, reporting that Ye had privately met with Hunter Biden at a Miami hotel in May 2017 to propose “a partnership to invest in American infrastructure and energy deals.” It also reported that Ho called James Biden in November 2017, as federal investigators were circling, though the elder Biden said he thought the call “had been meant” for Hunter.

While Hunter declined to talk to Times, he did talk to The New Yorker for a July 2019 profile. In it, he discussed his Miami meeting with Ye, saying that he “offered to use his contacts to help identify investment opportunities for Ye’s company, CEFC China Energy, in liquefied-natural-gas projects in the United States.”

Hunter said the subsequent negotiations were for CEFC to invest “forty million dollars in a liquefied-natural-gas project on Monkey Island, in Louisiana,” and that he agreed to the deal with Ho in November 2017, but soon after Ho was detained and the deal eventually fell through. While Ho was convicted in 2018 on the charges — the SDNY also landed a 2018 conviction for Hunter’s business partner Devon Archer in a separate fraud case — Hunter told The New Yorker that Ho was not a “shady character at all” and called it “bad luck.”

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