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Deeper look: CEFC, the Chinese energy firm at the center of the Biden impeachment inquiry

Lesser known than Burisma, the now-defunct company was once a Global Fortune 500 energy and finance conglomerate energy conglomerate with Chinese Communist Party connections, and a long history of helping to implement China's plans to become a dominant economic superpower. They are now at the center of the Biden impeachment inquiry. Who were they?

Published: December 25, 2023 11:12pm

Hunter Biden’s extensive financial dealings with the now-defunct Chinese energy conglomerate CEFC China Energy (CEFC) have become one of the central focuses of the House Republicans’ impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden. According to House investigators, one area of concern is the bank transfers he received from his relatives that ostensibly originated with that company.

Just the News reported last week that Hunter Biden’s work with the company began while his father was still Vice President and the IRS whistleblowers indicated that payments to the Biden family in 2017 may have been for services rendered earlier in 2016, Joe Biden’s last year in office during the Obama Administration. The House Oversight Committee this year also traced funds from the energy company directly into Joe Biden’s bank accounts.

Americans are well acquainted with Burisma, the Ukrainian energy firm that was at the center of President Trump’s first impeachment and the 2020 election, but CEFC remains more obscure.

What exactly was CEFC China Energy?

CEFC was a Chinese firm that emerged from relative obscurity to become one of the largest private energy companies in China, whose founder had close connections with the Chinese communist party, and which worked to advance the interests of the Chinese government across the globe primarily through energy deals. 

Hunter Biden actively sought to invite CEFC, so closely intertwined with the Chinese government, into the U.S. energy market and attempted to secure deals across the globe on their behalf, from the Middle East to Eastern Europe. In all, Hunter Biden would secure millions from the company.

CEFC’s success and influence would end abruptly and the company would collapse in 2018 after the arrest of one of its top officials in the United States and the disappearance of its founder and Chairman, Ye Jianming, in China under mysterious circumstances. So far, the Chinese government has remained silent on his whereabouts.

The company's origins

Chairman Ye Jianming, the enigmatic former Chinese businessman, started CEFC as a private collective enterprise with energy and financial services as its core business in 2002, according to a profile prepared by Senator Chuck Grassley, R., Iowa.

According to that profile, CEFC grew to two group companies, thirteen level-one subsidiaries, an A-share listed company, and had acquired shares of several foreign public companies, overseeing a workforce exceeding 30,000 people. CEFC remained under the public's radar for most of its history, until 2015, when Chairman Ye began buying assets in the Czech Republic in the heart of Europe.

According to CNN, the buying spree included the “country's oldest football club, Slavia Praha; a brewery; a share of the Travel Service airline group; a publishing house; a neo-renaissance building; a stake in the investment bank J&T Finance Group; and a building in the Czech capital Prague, intended for use as the company's European headquarters.”

In 2015, Czech President Milos Zeman appointed Ye as his special economic adviser. In 2018, The New York Times described their relationship as "cementing China’s newfound influence on politics and business in Mr. Zeman’s Czech Republic and signaled its broader ambitions in Europe.”

After CEFC’s investments across the Czech Republic, President Zeman took several policy positions favorable to the Chinese government, breaking with the previous anti-Communist China positions on his predecessor in office. Zeman publicly espoused support for China’s claim on Taiwan and rejected support for the Dalai Lama — the Tibetan religious leader labeled as "subversive" by the Chinese Communist Party.

Both Zeman and the Chinese saw benefits to the newfound relationship. After the global financial crisis, Xi’s China was looking for inroads into Europe, seeking financial and geopolitical advantages over the West. China eventually developed the "16+1 Forum," dedicated to expand cooperation with Central and Eastern European countries. This push formed part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative, which is intended to expand the country’s economic power and influence across the globe through trade and infrastructure projects.

Zeman, who was the first Czech president to visit the communist country in almost a decade when he traveled there in 2014, saw an opportunity for foreign investment and to make his country more independent from the political and economic whims of the United States. Before Chinese President Xi Jinping visited the Czech Republic in 2016, Zeman told Chinese media that it was an opportunity to restart the relationship, adding that the previous Czech government was “very submissive” to the United States.

Ye Jianming and CEFC’s goals appeared to align with the Chinese government’s overall national strategy on energy and economic connectivity with Europe. The strategy had seen significant success up until recent years when European countries began to diverge from China amid allegations of human rights abuses and China’s unofficial support for Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

While China expanded its reach in Europe, Ye’s CEFC was at the center of the action. Ye himself had connections with the Chinese Communist Party and his company often operated in a way beneficial to Beijing’s national interests.

Ye Jianming and CEFC were connected to the Chinese Communist Party

For example, Ye Jianming was reportedly the deputy secretary general of the China Association for International Friendly Contact (CAIFC), which is an arm of the Chinese military according to a report by the Project 2049 Institute. CAIFC previously denied its connection to Ye in an email to CNN. Political analyst and Emmy award-winning writer Peter Schweizer concluded in his 2022 book Red-Handed: How American Elites Get Rich Helping China Win that CEFC also had Chinese military officers affiliated with the company.

Corporate documents provided to Senator Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, by a former Hunter Biden business partner also showed that CEFC’s mission was to “expand cooperation in the international energy economy and contribute to the national development,” meaning the development of China's global influence.

The corporate documents also show that CEFC is was “dedicating itself to serving China’s national energy strategy,” “developing national strategic reserves [for oil],” and “[p]artnering with centrally-administered and state-owned enterprises,” according to a letter that Grassley wrote to then-Attorney General William Barr.

You can read Grassley’s letter below:

 

When Hunter Biden worked with the company in 2017, CEFC is reported to have received funding from the China Development Bank, retained a number of former officials from Chinese state owned energy companies, and contained “layers of Communist Party committees across its subsidiaries—more than at many private Chinese companies,” according to contemporaneous reports from Reuters.

After those investments, Zeman shifted the Czech Republic’s policy on a number of contentious China issues, including the suppression of anti-China demonstrators when Xi Jinping visited the country in 2016. Zeman also denied a government medal to a holocaust survivor because a relative of his met with the Dalai Lama, the Times of Israel reported.

CEFC’s global reach

CEFC approached Hunter Biden and his business partners in part for assistance in expanding its global reach, with an eye on the U.S. energy market. The younger Biden and his associates also worked to secure investment opportunities for CEFC in the Middle East and in Europe, specifically the countries of Oman and Romania.

According to corporate documents obtained by GOP Senators Grassley and Ron Johnson and outlined in their 2020 supplemental report on Hunter Biden’s business dealings, CEFC and its American partners eyed expansion in countries across the world, such as Oman, Colombia, Luxembourg, and Romania. The document stated that Hunter Biden was “key in relationship set up, messaging the good will around the chairman [Ye Jianming] and the non-conflict status of CEFC entry, ‘a bridge between two great nations’,” regarding the potential CEFC investment in Oman.

Of significance to congressional investigators, Hunter Biden helped CEFC plan for its expansion into the U.S. energy market through a joint venture with him and his partners at the same time that CEFC was set to acquire a $9.1 billion stake in Russia’s state-owned energy company, Rosneft.

According to the Senate report, “On the same day that the impending Rosneft deal was announced, Hunter Biden and Gongwen Dong, a Chinese national who has reportedly executed transactions for limited liability companies controlled by Ye Jianming, applied to a bank and opened a line of credit under the business name Hudson West III LLC.”

Hudson West III LLC would be the primary vehicle that Ye Jianming and CEFC would use to transfer funds to the younger Biden. Although the president has repeatedly denied any knowledge of his son's businesses, some of these funds would end up in Joe Biden’s personal bank account, according to documentary evidence obtained by the House Oversight Committee.

From 2017 to 2019, Hunter Biden received at least:

  • $3.6 million from a company that is likely CEFC
  • $664,000 from a CEFC-connected entity
  • $1 million from CEFC for the representation of Patrick Ho

The money that Hunter Biden received from CEFC sources was outlined in the first son’s now-defunct plea deal on his federal gun and tax charges. You can read the plea deal below:

One of the key episodes that illustrates CEFC’s Biden connection involved a planned investment in the Monkey Island natural gas terminal. In this deal, Hunter Biden and his partners worked to secure CEFC’s investment in Monkey Island and would provide CEFC with a jumping off point for the rest of the Gulf of Mexico. Hunter Biden’s Chinese assistant, JiaQi Bao, explained this in an email to the younger Biden, which was obtained from his abandoned laptop archive.

“Through you and Uncle Jim's connection, with Monkey Island/Magnolia/Project ABC as a starting point / talking point, we can check out a lot of all other interesting Louisiana/Taxes/Gulf of Mexico U. S. projects,” JiaQi Bao told Hunter.

“You are the best person to help your friend Ye to do that, because you know a lot of folks in the area and you have the access to decision-makers / helpful local folks with insight about the region,” she continued.

You can read that email below:

The fall of Ye Jianming & CEFC

Ye’s empire began to collapse in November of 2017 when Chi Ping “Patrick” Ho, one of his key deputies, was arrested by federal law enforcement and charged in the United States.

In November 2017, Ho was arrested in the United States for violating the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act and money laundering laws in a bribery scheme at the United Nations in the New York. Ho was convicted in a scheme to pay off African government officials for favorable treatment to CEFC on energy projects in their home countries. Ho operated through a think-tank affiliated with Ye’s CEFC while attempting to secure the benefits for the main company.

Hunter was paid a $1 million fee to legally represent Ho in his bribery trial and helped to secure legal representation for his Chinese client despite never representing Ho in the trial itself. Ho was convicted, served his 36 month sentence and was deported to Hong Kong.

Shortly after Ho’s arrest in the United States, Ye Jianming would disappear in China under mysterious circumstances. He was reportedly under investigation by the Chinese government. His name subsequently appeared in graft trials of senior Chinese Communist Party officials, according to Reuters, indicating that Ye may have been under scrutiny for financial crimes or corruption.

The Monkey Island deal was never consummated, likely a result of the collapse of his business entities, and CEFC was taken over by a Shanghai government entity. The funds to Hudson West III dried up after Ye’s disappearance and Hunter Biden’s foreign business deals wound down as his father prepared his run for President in 2019. Ye's whereabouts and legal status are still unknown. Reuters and The South China Morning Post reported that CEFC Chairman Ye Jianming had been investigated for suspected economic crimes.

Hunter Biden’s attorney did not respond to a request for comment from Just the News by the time of publication.

Hunter Biden’s payments from and work with CEFC and its enigmatic founder, Ye Jianming, will likely continue to be at the center of the House Oversight Committee’s investigation into President Biden and his family, especially because many key details remain unknown.

“We’ve revealed how Joe Biden received checks from his family that were funded by the Bidens’ influence peddling schemes – with China no less,” Chairman James Comer of the House Oversight Committee said in his press release, announcing Hunter Biden’s payments to his father after receiving money from CEFC.

“The House Oversight Committee continues to investigate Joe Biden’s involvement in his family’s domestic and international business schemes at a rapid pace,” he continued. “We will continue to uncover the facts and provide transparency about the findings of our investigation.”

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