Burisma Is What Started Hunter Biden Down a Path to Legal Troubles: President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, became a member of the board of the Ukrainian oil and gas firm Burisma in 2014, which raised questions of the appearance of a conflict of interest. The former vice president assumed responsibility for policy toward Ukraine in the wake of the Maidan Revolution of February 2014 that ousted Ukraine’s pro-Russian President Victor Yanukovich.
Hunter Biden received $50,000 per month from Burisma. Republicans slammed Hunter Biden’s lack of qualifications to be on the board. They claimed the appearance was that he only had the job because his father was the vice president and had no experience in the oil and gas industry.
Who Is Hunter Biden?
“I was vice chairman of the board of Amtrak for four or five years. I was the chairman of the board of the U.N. World Food Program. I was a lawyer for Boies, Schuler, Flexner, one of the most prestigious law firms in the world,” Hunter Biden told ABC News in 2020 as his qualification for a slot on Burisma’s board. “It is impossible for me to be on any of the boards that I just mentioned without saying that I am the son of the vice president of the United States.”
Hunter Biden conceded in the interview that he probably would not have been invited to be on Burisma’s board of directors had he not been Joe Biden’s son.
U.S. State Department officials in the Obama administration raised questions about Hunter Biden’s membership on the Burisma board in 2015. George Kent, then Acting Deputy Chief of Mission at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, raised questions about the post in correspondence with the vice president’s office. Kent suggested that he should step down.
Burisma’s owner Mykola Zlochevsky was the subject of several fraud investigations. He never was convicted. The U.K.’s Serious Fraud Office opened a money-laundering investigation into Zlochevsky, but it concluded in 2018 due to “insufficient evidence.” The FBI considered Zlochevsky corrupt, according to Kent.
Conflict of Interest?
Kent worried that Hunter Biden’s presence on the Burisma board could interfere with U.S. policy, particularly the possibility that Russian actors could use it to drive a wedge between Ukrainians and the U.S. The effort would have been trying to undermine U.S. policy toward Ukraine. Hunter Biden ignored these concerns and continued to serve on the Burisma board.
“Yet even though Hunter Biden’s position on Burisma’s board cast a shadow over the work of those advancing anticorruption reforms in Ukraine, the Committees are only aware of two individuals who raised concerns to their superiors. Despite the efforts of these individuals, their concerns appear to have fallen on deaf ears,” the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs and Senate Finance Committee majority staff wrote in their joint report on the Hunter Biden Burisma affair.
The matter came to a head in 2016 when Joe Biden traveled to Kyiv and met with then Ukrainian President Poro Poroshenko, telling him that the U.S. withhold $1 billion in aid unless Ukraine’s Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin was removed by the Ukrainian parliament. The E.U. supported Shokin’s ouster because he was accused to blocking the prosecution of major cases against allies and influential figures suspected of corruption.
Shokin had an active investigation into Zlochevsky and Burisma’s involvement in corruption at the time he was sacked.
Joe Biden’s admission in 2018 during a talk at the Council on Foreign Relations that he applied pressure to fire Shokin led to President Donald Trump’s phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky asking him to look into the firing. This, in turn, led to the first impeachment trial against Donald Trump.