Memos gathered by FBI show pattern of Hunter Biden mixing business affairs with hunger charity

Charitable discussions with Chinese energy giant CEFC that evolved into lucrative business deals fit classic foreign influence operation, ex-FBI intel chief says.

Published: April 13, 2022 6:47pm

Updated: April 17, 2022 9:27pm

With his father's eight-year tenure as Barack Obama's vice president waning, Hunter Biden received a remarkable overture in 2015: One of China's richest businessmen wanted to make a sizable donation to the World Food Program USA (WFP USA), which was led by the VP's son. 

WFP USA is a U.S.-based nonprofit dedicated to raising funds and building U.S. support for the World Food Program, the United Nations organization that fights global hunger.

But soon, memos gathered by the FBI show, the charitable discussions evolved into an expanding relationship between Hunter Biden and Chinese energy giant CEFC to include business deals that would eventually reap the Biden family millions of dollars

"CEFC China is very interested in exploring humanitarian initiatives of mutual interest to the World Food Program USA and discussing investment opportunities with Burnham," an email received and then forwarded by Hunter Biden in October 2015 stated. Burnham was one of the many firms through which Hunter Biden and his partners like Devon Archer scored large investments.

The story of CEFC's dual pitch for charity and business opportunities is documented in emails and memos stored on the notorious laptop Hunter Biden abandoned at a Delaware computer repair shop. The device was eventually turned over in December 2019 to the FBI, which is leading an investigation into the taxes, finances and foreign business dealings of the president's son.

The FBI's former intelligence chief said the Chinese overture to Hunter Biden fits the classic pattern of a foreign influence operation, much like was seen with Democratic congressman Eric Swalwell a few years ago.

“First, you have to understand that China does not donate to American led charities because they are altruistic," explained former FBI Assistant Director for Intelligence Kevin Brock. "And Chinese intelligence operatives like Christine Fang don’t cozy up to Rep. Eric Swalwell because he’s a fun guy to be around.  Chinese intelligence does what it does in order to steal information and influence American policy makers.”

“Things like offers for all expense paid trips to Beijing and inordinate amounts of money in exchange for ill-defined things like consulting services or academic papers are hallmarks of CCP intelligence operations," Brock added.  "Their methods are subtle and patient, they aim to dirty your hands and make it difficult break free over time.  We don’t know if Hunter Biden provided information useful to the CCP or even if he registered as a foreign agent as required by law.  The FBI hopefully will determine that.  But it looks clearer every day that he was targeted by Chinese intelligence and it’s not illogical to presume they did so because of his access to high-ranking U.S. officials.” 

The pattern of Hunter Biden mixing charity with private business was repeated several times during his tenure as chairman of the World Food Program USA, the documents show. 

For instance, Hunter Biden would connect his Burisma Holdings colleagues in Ukraine to the food charity. And his father spoke at the charity's events while also attending a dinner that merged Hunter Biden's business clients and charity colleagues.

Hunter Biden served on the WFP USA board from 2011 until 2017 and was chairman from 2011 to 2015, according to the nonprofit's annual reports. During that time, he leveraged his connections to the U.N.-affiliated organization and to his father, the vice president (who headlined multiple WFP USA events), to enhance his business relationships with Russian, Ukrainian, and Chinese oligarchs. 

WFP USA did not immediately return requests for comment. Hunter Biden's lawyer, George Mesires, has declined to return numerous messages from Just the News seeking comment on his client's foreign business dealings.

The Ukrainians were the first to see the potential to capitalize on Hunter Biden's WFP charitable connections. Documents on the laptop show that on March 16, 2015 Burisma adviser Vadym Pozharskyi wrote to Hunter Biden: "Following our conversation, I would like to let you know that it would be great if we could combine our efforts and do something important together in the area of food safety, as well in other areas of interest for WFP and other UN strategic initiatives."

"This is great," Hunter replied on the same day. "My thinking is that we create and fund an operation based at that focuses on solutions to food security that can be implemented in real time…my long term thinking is that this is what I/ We are known for. The possible connection to the UN leadership and the real ability that we have to bring both ideas and capital to the table along with a platform (CSIS/WFP) makes this a very interesting opportunity. I would love for you to be a partner in it."

Four days later, on March 20, 2015, Hunter Biden emailed a tentative guest list to his longtime business partner Archer, who now awaits sentencing for securities fraud, for a forthcoming dinner that would convene some of Hunter Biden's most controversial foreign business associates in the secluded "Garden Room" at the Cafe Milano in Washington D.C. 

Hunter Biden saved "3 seats for WFP people," another three seats for his Kazakh associates, two seats for former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov and his wife, Russian oligarch Yelena Baturina — Russia's wealthiest woman — as well as a seat for a Burisma representative, Pozharskyi.

Archer questioned Hunter Biden's decision to invite Pozharskyi (and sent a cryptic line about saving additional seats for his "guy" and Hunter's "guy"), but Hunter Biden insisted. 

"Vadym has an interest in being more involved in these issues- particularly related to UN agencies (WFP etc...)," the younger Biden explained. "I think your guy being there is more trouble than it's worth." 

It is unclear if the two "guys" they were referring to were the vice president and then-Secretary of State John Kerry (with whom Archer had a long history).

While Kerry and the Russian oligarchs apparently did not attend the dinner, then-Vice President Joe Biden did. His attendance at a dinner that included several of his son's foreign business associates directly contradicts the president's repeated claims that he never met with his son's business partners.

When news of the mysterious dinner first broke, the Washington Post's Glenn Kessler downplayed its significance and emphasized Biden's WFP USA connection. "But when we looked into it, there was less to the story than one might imagine," Kessler wrote. Kessler spoke with one of the dinner attendees, Rick Leach, who acknowledged that Joe Biden stopped by "briefly." Leach, the founder of WFP USA, claimed that he and Hunter delivered a "tag team presentation" about food assistance and "there was no discussion of politics or business about anything or anywhere."

The spring 2015 dinner would not be the last time Hunter Biden and his associates merged WFP USA charity work with their ambition to score millions of dollars in private business overseas in countries like China, Kazakhstan, Russia, Oman and Ukraine. On Oct. 4, 2015, for instance, Hunter Biden received an email from a consultant working on behalf of CEFC clearly showing the Chinese energy conglomerate wanted to be involved both with the charity and one of Hunter Biden's businesses, where he served as a vice chairman.

"CEFC China is very interested in exploring humanitarian initiatives of mutual interest to the World Food program USA and discussing investment opportunities with Burnham," the CEFC consultant wrote, dangling the opportunity for members of the Biden family to come to China for speaking appearances. 

"All expenses will be covered as well as speaking engagements," wrote CEFC's intermediary.

Two days later, one of Hunter Biden's partners, Eric Schwerin, met with the CEFC intermediary and briefed Hunter Biden and Archer on CEFC's impressive financials, and the three men began to plot their business dealings. 

Within a week, Schwerin reached out to WFP USA's Rick Leach, informing him that CEFC wanted to make a donation to the organization, which Hunter chaired at the time.

"My assumption based on the conversations I have had with them is that it would be more than just a token donation," Schwerin wrote, indicating that he was still performing due diligence on a CEFC entity's 501(c)3 status. Schwerin's due diligence apparently failed to uncover that CEFC was closely linked to the Chinese military, as Senate investigators would later conclude.

By December 2015, CEFC had not yet linked up with Hunter Biden or WFP USA, but it had found another way into the Biden family orbit. Former Serbian Foreign Minister Vuk Jeremic happened to be on the CEFC advisory board and was a Biden associate. Jeremic contacted Schwerin and pitched him on a CEFC meeting.

"It is interesting that you raised the CEFC Chairman," Schwerin replied, mentioning the CEFC consultant's recent overture regarding a WFP USA donation. 

"We weren't sure if it was worthwhile but the fact that he is friends with you makes us feel better about this," Schwerin said. 

Jeremic replied that he was very close to and could vouch for CEFC chairman Ye Jianming (whose close ties to Chinese intelligence were a red flag for Republican Sens. Ron Johnson and Charles Grassley and have now been exposed in Peter Schweizer's best-selling expose "Red-Handed: How American Elites Get Rich Helping China Win"). Hunter Biden's team informed Jeremic that his referral allayed their reservations and made plans to meet with the CEFC chairman the following week.

After Hunter Biden and Schwerin met with the "#2" at CEFC, Schwerin reached out to WFP USA's Rick Leach to inform him about Hunter's idea for CEFC to bankroll WFP USA's "Purchase for Progress" program, the emails and memos show. 

Having already spoken with Hunter Biden about the CEFC donation, Leach concurred. "It's a very exciting opportunity," Leach wrote.

Schwerin followed up with WFP USA personnel about the CEFC donation and vouched for the Chinese energy company multiple times.

"Vuk is a good friend and our primary validator with CEFC," Schwerin wrote to WFP USA's team. He emphasized that "you can tell from the names and photos on the site there are a lot of well-known and influential people involved." Schwerin acknowledged that he was not sure if CEFC had a U.S.-based entity that could make the donation.

Between 2015 and 2016 — while Joe Biden was still in the White House — Hunter Biden and his associates negotiated a deal with CEFC's mysterious "Director Zang" that would have CEFC paying Hunter Biden and his associates $10 million per year for "introductions alone," according to one email sent by Hunter Biden to CEFC associates. By early 2016, Hunter Biden and his associates were working for CEFC on investment pitches and preparing for trips to meet with CEFC in Beijing. 

By mid-2016, WFP USA's "Due Diligence Committee…approved CEFC!" Schwerin began discussing the prospect of introducing other associates to CEFC. "If we can make the connection [to CEFC] we can take a percentage of the sale," Schwerin wrote to Hunter on Aug. 22, 2016, explaining how they could profit.

In February 2017, Hunter Biden and two of his associates flew to Miami to meet with CEFC chairman Ye Jianming. There, Ye changed the original deal that Hunter Biden and the CEFC director had negotiated in 2015 and 2016 to "A MUCH MORE LASTING AND LUCRATIVE ARRANGEMENT," as Hunter emphasized in an email on  Aug. 2, 2017. The Miami deal was "much more interesting to me and my family," Hunter explained, because the Bidens "would also be partners in the equity and profits of the JV's investments."

As a gesture of commitment, Ye gave Hunter Biden a three-carat diamond valued at $80,000, memos show. When asked about this fateful meeting in Miami, Hunter Biden told the New Yorker's Adam Entous he "knew it wasn't a good idea to take [the diamond]," and he "just felt like it was weird." (He admits he took the diamond anyway but claims he gave it to an associate and does not know they did with it).

Hunter also told Entous that he was there for WFP USA charity work when the meeting unexpectedly "turned to business opportunities." However, Hunter went there with two other business partners who had been intimately involved in pitching private business deals to CEFC.

Over the next year, the CEFC money began to flow, and Hunter Biden reaped nearly $6 million from the Chinese energy giant.

In "Red-Handed," Schweizer detailed his findings about the CEFC chairman's close ties to Chinese military and intelligence: 

"Ye's strong ties to Chinese intelligence are worth noting.

CEFC was housed in a complex in Shanghai's French Concession section, an area "primarily controlled by China's military." One of Ye's early business partners was the granddaughter of "one of the founders of China's military," Marshal Ye Jianying.

The corporate logo of the company Hunter Biden was now advising, and which would pay him millions, features a star. According to company records on its English website, it represents "civil rights." However, on the company's Chinese-language site, the star signifies that "this organization will play a strong and powerful role for the interests of the Chinese state and nation."

Ye built his business by acquiring assets from Lai Changxing, a former [People's Liberation Army] officer closely linked with Chinese military intelligence. Lai reportedly drove a bulletproof Mercedes around Beijing with a license plate adorned with a distinctive Chinese character in red — an indication that his car was owned by the PLA General Staff.

Ye has other connections to the Chinese government's military, intelligence, and political apparatus. He was the deputy secretary-general of either the China Association for International Friendly Contact (CAIFC) or CAIFC's Shanghai branch from 2003 to 2005. CAIFC is funded by Chinese PLA intelligence. Finally, there are Chinese military officers affiliated with Ye's company who are also tied to the PLA National Defense University.

Beyond the military and intelligence ties, CEFC has also cosponsored events with neo-Maoist and hard-line nationalists in China who want to radically expand Beijing's global reach. The CEFC funded a related nonprofit think tank called the China Energy Fund Committee. While the Fund Committee sponsored events and research advocating China's territorial claims, another subsidiary, the China Institute of Culture, pledged support for Taiwan's reunification with mainland China."

By mid 2017, CEFC was making interest-free loans to the Bidens. One CEFC executive claimed that $5 million was "lent" to the Biden family (not exclusively to Hunter Biden). "This $5 million loan to the BD [Biden] family is interest free," the CEFC executive wrote. "But if the 5M is used up, should CEFC keep lending more to the family?"

CEFC Infrastructure Investment LLC sent $100,000 to Hunter Biden's firm, Owasco, in August 2017. 

Less than one week later, the entity transferred $5 million to another firm controlled by CEFC chairman Ye Jianming. That firm then started sending regular payments to Hunter Biden's Owasco firm. 

According to the Johnson and Grassley Senate report, Hunter Biden funneled nearly $1.4 million of that money to his aunt Sara and uncle James' firm Lion Hall Group.

Seamus Bruner is Director of Research at the Government Accountability Institute, which produces investigations at the Drill Down with Peter Schweizer.

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