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21 Nov, 2019 04:53

Ukraine expands probe into head of firm that employed Hunter Biden, whose name features in ‘several’ criminal cases – prosecutor

Ukraine expands probe into head of firm that employed Hunter Biden, whose name features in ‘several’ criminal cases – prosecutor

Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, is mentioned in several probes relating to Burisma’s founder, the Ukrainian prosecutor has said, as leaked documents allege that he was part of a money-laundering scheme.

Ukrainian Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka said that a long-running probe into Mykola Zlochevsky, the founder of Burisma natural gas company, has been expanded to include allegations of large-scale embezzlement of government funds. Hunter Biden sat on the firm’s board of directors.

The on-and-off investigation into alleged shady dealings at Burisma was galvanized in August, when Ryaboshapka ordered a review of criminal cases involving the company. Since the start of an ongoing impeachment inquiry into whether US President Donald Trump offered his Ukrainian counterpart Volodymyr Zelensky a ‘quid pro quo’ of military aid in return for reopening an investigation into Biden, the case has become a critical part of US political discourse.

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Speaking to reporters on Wednesday, Ryaboshapka said that he did not have any contact with US officials, and was in no way “asked” or “pressured” into going after the Biden family. 

The prosecutor said that there was no “Burisma case” per se, but noted that investigators have been handling 13 cases related to Zlochevsky. When asked if any of those pertained to Burisma’s legal woes, Ryaboshapka spilled some beans, revealing that the company’s name, as well as that of the younger Biden, have popped up in “several” of those cases.

While the prosecutor has yet to provide any additional details as to why Biden's name was included in the papers, in a separate press conference two Ukrainian MPs claimed they had obtained documents which detail prosecutors’ suspicions that the son of the US presidential hopeful and other “consultants” were paid opulent salaries with money “obtained through criminal means,” which was then laundered with the help of Zlochevsky. 

The documents purportedly show that Biden and his partners received over $16.5 million in the short span between November 2014 and October 2015. There is no indication that Hunter Biden or any of the other directors were aware of the alleged illicit origin of the funds.

Speaking at the press conference, Ukrainian MP Andriy Derkach alleged that, according to a “suspicion notice” that is to be served on Zlochevsky, who is currently at large, “Biden received funds not due to the successful activity of Burisma or for brilliant business decisions or recommendations.” 

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“This is the money of Ukrainian citizens. The funds were obtained by criminal means. That's what they say in the PGO [Prosecutor General's Office],” the MP said.

The case against Zlochevsky, who was also Ukraine’s minister for ecology and natural resources from July 2010 until April 2012, has now stalled, with authorities unable to locate him. Ryaboshapka confirmed on Wednesday that the ex-minister has been put on a wanted persons list.

Reports of new accusations in Zlochevsky’s case were instantly picked up by conservative media in the US. Several outlets have erroneously reported that Ryaboshapka announced that the elusive Burisma owner was indicted over a money laundering scheme, while in fact Ryaboshapka said that the cases against Zlochevsky would be referred to appropriate law enforcement authorities for further investigation. He specified that some of the cases would be handed over to Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigations, while terrorism-related probes would go the Security Service of Ukraine, and the rest would be transferred to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau of Ukraine.

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