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Monday, August 3, 2020

Lobbying Firm Tied to Hunter Biden, Burisma Received PPP Loan

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A lobbying and public relations firm tied to Hunter Biden, the youngest son of former Vice President Joe Biden, and the Ukrainian natural gas conglomerate Burisma Holdings, were the beneficiaries of a coronavirus relief loan from the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP).

Blue Star Strategies, which at one time was hired by Burisma to help the company push back against allegations of public corruption, received a loan from the program for between $150,000 and $350,000, according to PPP funding disbursement data made public on Monday.

The revelations come as Blue Star has been subpoenaed by the Senate Homeland Security Committee as part of an ongoing probe into Biden and Burisma. Blue Star became ensnared in the investigation last year when a Freedom of Information Act request revealed representatives of the firm had invoked Biden when trying to secure a meeting with the Obama-era State Department in 2016 to discuss corruption allegations against Burisma. At the time, Biden was a member of Burima’s board of directors and has been linked by the New York Times to the company’s hiring of Blue Star.

The younger Biden joined Burisma’s board in April 2014, around the same time his father was tapped to be the Obama administration’s point man on Ukraine. Despite having no background in either eastern Europe or the energy industry, Biden was paid as much $83,000-per-month for his services.

Adding to concerns was that he joined the natural gas company at a time when it was actively courting western leaders to prevent scrutiny of its business practices. The same month as the appointment, Mykola Zlochevsky, Burisma’s founder, had his assets frozen in the United Kingdom on suspicion of money laundering.

A Ukrainian official with ties to Zlochevsky admitted in October 2019 the only reason Biden was tapped to join Burisma’s board was to “protect” the company from foreign scrutiny.

It is in the context of Burisma and Zlochevsky’s legal troubles that Joe Biden’s influence has raised red flags. The former vice president has particularly drawn questions over his conduct in demanding the Ukrainian government fire its top prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, in 2016. The demand for Shokin’s ouster was tied to more than $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees.

The former vice president, who has publicly bragged about the firing, has claimed the demand came from then-President Barack Obama, who had allegedly lost faith in the prosecutor’s ability to tackle corruption. Unofficially, though, it was known that Shokin was investigating both Burisma and Zlochevsky for public corruption.

It is uncertain if that probe extended to Biden, although Shokin has claimed that prior to his ouster, he was warned to back off the matter. Regardless of what occurred, Shokin’s successor, who is now himself being investigated for public corruption, dropped the investigation into Burisma.

Biden remained on the company’s board until his term expired in April 2019. During his tenure, Burisma wired millions of dollars to a Morgan Stanley bank account controlled by the younger Biden and his business associates. Between November 2014 and November 2015 alone, Burisma transferred more than $3.5 million to the account.

Last month, Ukrainian law enforcement officials announced they had seized more than $5 million in what is alleged to be a bribery scheme perpetrated to benefit Mykola Zlochevsky, Burisma’s founder. According to reports, three suspects, who all have ties to Zlochvesky, attempted to bribe anti-corruption officials investigating Burisma and its founder for embezzlement.

The head of Ukraine’s national anti-corruption bureau claimed the alleged scheme was not connected with either Biden or his father.

Neither Blue Star nor Joe Biden’s presidential campaign returned requests for comment on this story.


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