If true, the timeline of Joe Biden’s infamous intervention in Ukraine becomes a whole lot more interesting. John Solomon reports this morning that he has confirmed that Latvian investigators raised red flags over Burisma transactions that appeared to involve Hunter Biden in February 2016. The probe went nowhere, which could mean there was nothing to the issue, or that perhaps Biden père‘s intervention had some effect:
The Feb. 18, 2016 alert to Ukraine came from the Latvian prosecutorial agency responsible for investigating money laundering, and it specifically questioned whether Vice President Joe Biden’s younger son and three other officials at Burisma Holdings were the potential beneficiaries of suspect funds.
“The Office for Prevention of Laundering of Proceeds Derived from Criminal Activity … is currently investigating suspicious activity of Burisma Holdings Limited,” the Latvian agency also known as the FIU wrote Ukraine’s financial authorities.
Solomon writes that the current Ukrainian general prosecutor office gave him the alert, which might seem a bit suspicious in itself after all the quid pro quo-ing that’s been going on. However, Solomon also writes that the Latvian government has confirmed the authenticity of the document through its US embassy. It seems very doubtful that Latvia would want to inject itself into the Ukraine-Gate mess unless it absolutely had to do so.
Bear in mind that this still needs more corroboration, as developments in this scandal tend to get fuzzier rather than clearer with the passage of time. If it gets firmly established, though, the alert raises all sorts of questions about Hunter Biden’s actual role at Burisma. Why would loan payments be “partially transferred” to Biden, anyway?
The Latvian law enforcement memo identified a series of loan payments totaling about $16.6 million that were routed from companies in Beliz and the United Kingdom to Burisma through Ukraine’s PrivatBank between 2012 and 2015.
The flagged funds were “partially transferred” to Hunter Biden, a board member at Burisma since May 2014, and three other officials working for the Ukrainian natural gas company, the Latvian memo said.
The letter asked Ukrainian officials for any evidence about whether the funds were involved in corruption and whether Ukrainian officials were investigating Burisma and the recipients of the money.
“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 letter said.
Again, there may be reasonable explanations for this, but it was suspicious enough to get the attention of the Latvians, assuming the alert is corroborated. The timing is very interesting, too. Joe Biden bragged that he went to Ukraine in March 2016 to demand that then-president Petro Poroshenko fire general prosecutor Viktor Shokin because Shokin wasn’t enthusiastic enough about rooting out corruption, a story Biden enjoyed enough to brag about last year:
Well, I was, not I, but it just happened to be that was the assignment I got. I got all the good ones. And so I got Ukraine. And I remember going over convincing our team, our, others to convincing that we should be providing for loan guarantees. And I went over, try to guess the 12th, 13th time to Kiev, and I was going to, supposed to announce that there was another billion dollar loan guarantee. And I had gotten a commitment from Poroshenko and from Yatsenyuk that they would take action against the state prosecutor, and they didn’t. So they said they had, they were walking out to a press conference, and I said no, I said I’m not going to, we’re not going to give you the billion dollars. They said you have no authority. You’re not the president. The president said. I said call him. I said I’m telling you, you’re not getting the billion dollars. I said you’re not getting the billion, and I’m going to be leaving here, and I think it was what, six hours. I looked. I said I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money. Well, son of a bitch. He got fired.
Shokin got fired in March 2016, which puts this conversation just weeks after Latvia apparently raised questions about Hunter Biden’s involvement in corruption. It’s fair to say that Shokin’s termination was not exactly lamented in the West, thanks to their impression that he was more interested in politics than reform. The Wall Street Journal reported on long-standing frustration with the pace of investigations, including into Burisma and its oligarch owner Mykola Zlochevsky, among G-7 nations attempting to lend financial support to the post-2014 government in Kyiv.
This does raise questions, however, about whether the Obama administration knew that Latvia had begun to ask questions about Hunter Biden (assuming this is confirmed). Solomon asked the Latvian embassy about it, but didn’t get a definitive answer:
Saburovs said authorities in his country could find no evidence they flagged the same transactions to U.S. authorities even though Hunter Biden and two others named in the letter were Americans and the U.S. firm, Rosemont Seneca Bohais that was connected to Hunter Biden, routinely received monthly payments totaling more than $166,600 from Burisma.
“We do not possess such information,” he said when asked about contacts with U.S. officials.
It would certainly be a very strange coincidence if Latvia raised this concern about Hunter to Ukraine alone, and his father just so happened to impose a US quid pro quo over prosecutorial priorities just a few weeks later. Even if Joe Biden never mentioned Hunter Biden, the Ukrainians would have to understood Biden’s demand in the context of the Latvian alert. And if Latvia alerted the US to their concerns, it raises all sorts of questions about why Biden was handling the Ukraine portfolio at all, especially on Burisma and corruption in general.
As Solomon notes, the Latvian query never got any response and the matter was dropped. That could be because there was nothing to it, or it could be that the Ukrainians got the message that Hunter’s dad was taking a very personal interest in their investigations, too. One has to wonder whether this was one of the reasons Adam Schiff wanted to take a peek at Solomon’s call records, too.