News & Politics

Latvia Flagged Burisma Payments to Hunter Biden in 2016, Suspecting Money Laundering

Vice President Joe Biden, left, with his son Hunter, right. (AP Photo/Nick Wass, File)

Back in February 2016, the government agency in charge of investigating money-laundering in the Baltic country of Latvia flagged some “suspicious” payments from the notoriously corrupt gas company Burisma Holdings to Hunter Biden, the son of former Vice President Joe Biden. Latvia asked for Ukraine’s help in investigating the payments.

“The Office for Prevention of Laundering of Proceeds Derived from Criminal Activity … is currently investigating suspicious activity of Burisma Holdings Limited,” Latvia’s Financial Intelligence Unit (FIU) wrote in a memo to Ukrainian financial authorities, according to investigative journalist John Solomon, who unearthed the document Tuesday. The Ukrainian General Prosecutor’s Office turned over the February 18, 2016, memo to Solomon, and Latvia’s embassy in the U.S. confirmed its veracity.

The memo drew attention to a series of loan payments totaling about $16.6 million routed from companies in Belize and Britain to Burisma through Ukraine’s PrivatBank between 2012 and 2015. The funds were “partially transferred” to Hunter Biden, who became a Burisma board member in May 2014 despite his lack of experience in the gas industry. His father, however, was the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine. The funds in question were also transferred to three other officials working for Burisma.

The memo asked Ukrainian officials for evidence of whether the funds were involved in corruption and whether Ukrainian officials were investigating Burisma.

“On the grounds of possible legalization of proceeds derived from criminal activity and corruption, please grant us permission to share the information included in the reply to this request with Latvian law enforcement entities for intelligence purposes only,” the memo reads.

Arturs Saburovs, third secretary at the Latvian Embassy in Washington, D.C., confirmed the memo’s veracity to Solomon and said Latvia did not receive evidence from Ukraine to further its investigation.

“In this case, the Latvian FIU reached out to its Ukrainian counterpart seeking additional clarifications,” Saburovs said. “Information was received, yet no incriminatory evidence for further analysis was provided by the Ukrainian authorities.”

While the Latvians did not take additional action in 2016, Solomon reported that the memo “adds to the mounting evidence that there was ongoing investigative activity surrounding Burisma Holdings and Hunter Biden’s compensation as a board member in the weeks just before Joe Biden forced the firing of the Ukraine prosecutor overseeing the Burisma investigation in spring 2016.”

Biden threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. aid to Ukraine, pressuring the country to fire Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin. Shokin was overseeing a wide-ranging investigation into Burisma and he has since insisted that he was making plans to interview Hunter Biden when he was fired in March 2016 under pressure from Biden.

The Biden camp has firmly denied any wrongdoing, insisting that the former vice president forced Shokin’s ouster because he was ineffective at fighting corruption. Shokin claims he was fired due to the Burisma probe.

The Obama State Department was concerned about Hunter Biden’s employment at Burisma, due to the potential conflict of interest with his father leading U.S. policy with the country. In fact, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent — who led the Obama State Department efforts in Ukraine — testified that he personally intervened in 2016 to stop a joint project between the State Department and Burisma.

Biden supporters have insisted that Shokin’s investigation into Burisma was dormant at the time the former vice president pushed for the prosecutor’s ouster, but Solomon reported that “evidence has emerged that the investigation was, in fact, active.”

Ukrainian prosecutors confirmed that they transferred their investigative files to detectives at the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine in December 2015. On February 2, 2016, Shokin’s office secured a court order to re-seize the assets of Burisma founder Mykola Zlochevsky. Officers did indeed seize some of his property.

In late February, after the Latvian memo, Burisma’s American representatives pressed the Obama State Department to help end the corruption allegations against the company. In March 2016, the top State Department official for Ukraine policy called for Shokin’s ouster, and less than three weeks later Biden pressured Ukraine’s president to fire him. Shortly thereafter, Burisma’s American legal team sought a meeting with Shokin’s replacement.

The corruption investigations were dropped in late 2016 and early 2017. But in early 2019, NABU and the Ukraine prosecutor general’s office announced they were reopening the investigation into Burisma.

Solomon’s reporting on this issue has proven essential to unearthing the real story about Hunter Biden and Burisma. President Donald Trump infamously asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate this potential corruption in the July 25 call at the center of the Democrats’ impeachment inquiry. Trump insists he made this request in the interests of America, not to help his campaign.

John Solomon’s revelations have undercut Joe Biden’s narrative, bolstering Trump’s claim that a request for an investigation into Hunter Biden would indeed be in America’s interest. If a sitting vice president did pressure Ukraine to fire its general prosecutor in order to protect his son’s job at a notoriously corrupt gas company, that is a serious scandal. Perhaps, for this reason, the impeachment effort seems to be hurting Biden’s chances against his competitors in the Democratic primary, while Trump’s poll numbers are increasing.

Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.