The United States may be the world’s largest donor to democracy. They sponsor a large number of anti-corruption programs. However, in recent years, the American pillar of democracy has begun to show its cracks. And strangely enough this could be a result of the relations in the US President’s administration.
On June 2, 2021, Press Club Brussels Europe hosted a presentation of a documentary film by British journalists, “A LOT OF HOT AIR. Who’s telling the truth in the Burisma gas scandal?” It covers how the Ukrainian company Burisma, with the help of the former Minister of Ecology of Ukraine, Mykola Zlochevsky, took tens of millions out of the country. From 2014 to 2019, the son of the current US President, Hunter Biden, worked in the same company.
Burisma is the largest private gas production company in Ukraine. During the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, it developed at a breakneck pace. This was largely due to Mykola Zlochevsky, the richest minister at the time, who fled the country after the Revolution of Dignity.
However, his forced emigration did not affect Burisma in any way, which in 2014 involved Hunter Biden and former Polish President Aleksander Kwaśniewski.
Experts believe that this may be a conflict of interest: The United States, on the one hand, demands that Ukraine fights corruption more actively, creating new anti-corruption bodies; on the other hand, the son of US Vice President Hunter Biden works in a Ukrainian company under criminal investigation for embezzlement.
The Washington Post in May 2014 wrote that “For one thing, while Burisma is clearly trying to portray itself as an open, Western company, its ownership is more than a little murky. A 2012 investigation from Forbes Ukraine noted that registration documents from Ukraine and Cyprus indicated that Mykola Zlochevsky, a former government minister and representative of Yanukovych’s Party of Regions, was in control of the company. There was speculation from Ukrainian energy analysts that Biden’s appointment may have been an attempt to avoid sanctions by other, bigger Yanukovych allies.”
This point of view is confirmed by former Deputy Prosecutor General of Ukraine Kostiantyn Kulyk in the documentary film by British journalists: “In 2014, the United States of America imposed financial sanctions against former Ukrainian President Yanukovych and his entourage. All persons on this list tried to find lobbyists in the United States to resolve the issue with their sanctions. This included Kurchenko (a businessman with close ties to Yanukovych – ed.), Zlochevsky and other people. In 2019, when we went to confiscate $6.5 billion, and brought charges against Kurchenko, Zlochevsky, Lozhkin (Head of the Administration of the President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko – ed.) and others from Poroshenko’s entourage (the current president at that moment – ed.), the US lobbyists managed to get me fired by holding competitions for compliance with the positions held by people who used to work for Zlochevsky. It is clear how they would assess my suitability for the role.”
“The Hill” news site wrote that the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine under the leadership of Viktor Shokin (headed the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine from February 2015 to February 2016) found that Burisma transferred more than 160 thousand dollars each month to Rosemont Seneca Partners, which is related to Hunter Biden. However, the investigation was never completed, and in 2016, Viktor Shokin was sacked.
In October 2020, it became known that in relation to a criminal case on the withdrawal of funds from Ukraine by Mykola Zlochevsky, two witnesses were interrogated, citizens of Latvia. They claim that the funds withdrawn from Ukraine were laundered with the help of Wirelogic Technology A.S. and Digitex Organization LLP with subsequent transfer to the aforementioned Rosemont Seneca Bohai LLC. Witnesses say that at some point they noticed strange transfers from the accounts, which were often repeated and consisted of identical amounts.
Ukrainian Prosecutor-General Viktor Shokin actively investigated the case of Mykola Zlochevsky in Ukraine and Hunter Biden’s involvement in his company. He also faced direct pressure from the US presidential administration, in which Joe Biden was vice president.
In 2020, the Ukrainian MP Andriy Derkach published telephone conversations in which voices resembling the ex-president of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and Joe Biden are heard. In one of them, Biden demands the dismissal of Shokin, threatening to withhold $1 billion in credit assistance to Ukraine.
“There is a recording of the conversation, directly between Poroshenko and Biden, where Poroshenko reports to Biden how he fired Shokin. And Biden listens very carefully to this information. In the end, he says, “very good”. Poroshenko says that, even though there are no complaints about corruption or work against Shokin, “I followed your instructions … and resolved the issue of the Prosecutor General, received the statement from him,” says Derkach in an interview with the British journalists.
Joe Biden made no secret of his demand for Shokin’s dismissal.
“I said, I’m telling you (Ukrainian officials – ed.), you’re not getting the billion dollars. … I looked at them and said, ‘I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor (Viktor Shokin – ed.) is not fired, you’re not getting the money.’ Well, son of a bitch. He got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time,” Joe Biden recalls.
Interestingly, during the investigation into the Burisma case and the involvement of Hunter Biden, a laptop unexpectedly appeared, which revealed many files related to the company and the Biden family. This case was reported by the New York Post.
In particular, the report stated that in 2015, Joe Biden, with his son Hunter’s assistance, met with Burisma employee Vadim Pozharsky. The information about Joe Biden’s meeting with Pozharsky interested the US media, as the former vice president himself assured that he had never discussed business activities with his son outside the United States. The letters, published by the publication, were obtained from the laptop allegedly left by Biden’s son in a repair shop in Delaware.
In fact, during the election campaign, Joe Biden did everything he could to reassure the community that the information on the laptop was fake.
However, with the release of Hunter Biden’s memoirs, which he published in 2021, it became known that the laptop still contained information that is quite true. There were photos on this laptop where Hunter appears to be taking drugs. In his book, he confirms this:
“In the last five years alone, my two-decades-long marriage has dissolved, guns have been put in my face, and at one point I dropped clean off the grid, living in $59-a-night Super 8 motels.”
The memoirs describe the US president’s son’s repeated attempts to rehabilitate himself and his family’s attempts to combat his addictions. He writes that he first drank alcohol at the age of 8 at a party in honor of his father’s election.
Shortly after Hunter Biden’s book was published, Prosecutor General of Ukraine Viktor Shokin, who was dismissed after a phone call from Joe Biden, released his memoirs. In the book, he paid much attention to how he once tried to investigate the activities of Burisma actively.
British journalists suggest in their investigation that there was indeed US pressure on the Ukrainian authorities, but it is unlikely ever to be proven – mainly because the current US president actually covered up the corruption himself, letting his son work for a dubious Ukrainian company.
Most Ukrainian officials who are interested in unraveling this corruption case have paid for it with their positions, such as Viktor Shokin and Kostiantyn Kulyk. At the same time, the People’s Deputy Andriy Derkach, who at one time published recordings of telephone conversations between former President of Ukraine Petro Poroshenko and Joe Biden, was affected as well – he was included in the US sanctions list.
Now the US government can focus on Yuriy Lutsenko, the successor of Viktor Shokin as the head of the Prosecutor General of Ukraine. After all, it was him who once argued that through the US Embassy in Ukraine there were instructions concerning the opening or non-opening of criminal cases.
In any case, Joe Biden’s close relations with Ukraine, which is considered one of the most corrupt countries in Europe, can backfire at any moment.