'If you have to sleep with her, do it': a Hunter Biden-linked firm's pursuit of Russian money
Emails chronicle effort to secure investment, create U.S. bank account for Russian oligarch.
The Facts Inside Our Reporter’s Notebook
A few months before Russian oligarch Elena Baturina wired $3.5 million in February 2014 to a Hunter Biden-linked firm, his business associates scrambled to secure U.S. bank approval because she was on a federal government "watch list" for financial transactions, according to never-before-revealed emails and documents.
The document trove may be viewed here:
The memos, obtained by Just the News, show Hunter Biden's primary business partner, Devon Archer, and business associates Jason Galanis and Bevan Cooney, began working in November 2013 to overcome regulatory and compliance issues so they could take the Russian billionaire's money in one of their companies, called Burnham.
Baturina had asked the men to set up a U.S. bank account for her as part of the transactions, the memos show.
"She's so rich she has Burnham money stuck in her sofa. Good luck Archie," Galanis wrote Archer in late 2013 about the ongoing effort to lure her investment and get a bank account open for Baturina.
"If you have to sleep with her, do it for the team," Galanis implored.
Baturina, the wife of former Moscow mayor Yury Luzhkov, became Russia's first female billionaire through her real estate empire before corruption allegations against her in Moscow in 2011 forced her to move to London.
In London, she became a prominent philanthropist and has always denied wrongdoing.
The emails reviewed by Just the News show Archer's business associates were aware of the controversies surrounding Baturina before they pursued the business relationship with her.
For instance, Galanis in November 2013 sent Bevan Cooney a link to Baturina's Wikipedia profile and quickly followed up with a 2011 Daily Mail article about her recent money and legal problems. The headline read: "Police raid offices of Russia's richest woman in £270m fraud probe — but has she fled to London?"
Less than three weeks later, Archer informed Cooney and Galanis that he was meeting with Baturina in New York.
By Jan. 3, 2014, Galanis informed Archer that Baturina might have issues with anti-money laundering (AML) regulations known as "know your customer" (or "KYC") rules which require financial institutions to perform due diligence on prospective new clients.
Galanis wrote Archer he knew someone who can serve as a "go between" to help Baturina place her money in a J.P. Morgan account with the goal of investing in Burnham Asset Management (BAM) and Burnham Securities Inc. (BSI).
Galanis emailed Archer on Jan. 5, 2014 stating that his "go-between" is "raring to go on Yelena." The intermediary will "need her paperwork" and "will get her a JPMorgan [account]," the email stated.
Galanis and Archer deliberated over whether the account should be in her personal name or a separate entity.
"All U.S. accounts end up being look through to a beneficial owner anyway so let's just go with her person," Archer responded. "Establish US banking relationship was the goal she gave me."
By January 15, 2014, Archer raised concerns about the pace of the process..
"We are getting nowhere with Burnham on the Yelena account opening so we're going to go with our boy Harold at [Morgan Stanley]," Archer wrote Galanis. "I've submitted her info to compliance and have a meeting scheduled for Tuesday with [Morgan Stanley] head of the Private Bank and HF. I will negotiate a revshare with BOE."
The next day, Burnham CEO Jon Burnham emailed an update to Archer:
"JPM [J.P. Morgan] is working on checking Yelena [Baturina] out. She is not on the OFAC list which means that there probably is no AML problem. They are checking also with their AML people," Burnham wrote Archer. "I told JPM that I want to know from them whether we will be able to open an account for her at JPM Clearing if she decides she wants to have an account with us."
"OFAC" refers to the Treasury Department's Office of Foreign Asset Controls, which typically deals with sanctioned individuals and entities. At the time, Baturina was not sanctioned by OFAC in any way.
Archer forwarded Burnham's email to his associates.
"This is potentially fantastic news, arch! what happens if we get her full JP Morgan account??? party time USA????" Galanis wrote back.
Less than one week later, on Jan. 21, 2014, Jon Burnham emailed Archer that he had secured approval for Baturina's account from JP Morgan Clearing.
"They said that she is on their watch list because there are so many threats of lawsuits — but the fact that there have been no convictions etc., they have approved her," Archer wrote his colleague.
By mid-February 2014, Biden's associates were planning for Baturina's visit to the U.S. for the official opening of her new J.P. Morgan account. Their moods were celebratory, as getting a U.S.-based account was seen as a major hurdle and clearing that hurdle meant Baturina could begin investing in their Burnham ventures.
A Senate report released last month by GOP Sens. Charles Grassley of Iowa and Ron Johnson of Wisconsin revealed that on Feb. 14, 2014 Baturina wired $3.5 million to Rosemont Seneca Thornton LLC, a firm the Senate report claimed was co-founded by Hunter Biden. Biden's lawyer disputed that Hunter Biden "co-founded" or had any "interest" in the firm and therefore claims that his client was not the direct recipient of the specific $3.5 million transfer identified in the Senate report — although he did not deny that Hunter Biden had any connection to or derived any payments from Rosemont Seneca Thornton, LLC.
In a public statement, Biden's lawyer said: "Hunter Biden had no interest in and was not a co-founder of Rosemont Seneca Thornton, so the claim that he was paid $3.5 million is false." Hunter Biden's precise relationship with Rosemont Seneca Thornton, LLC was not clarified, though it appears the firm is connected to Biden interests as the Bohai Harvest private equity fund (a Chinese government-backed joint-venture with Hunter Biden's firm Rosemont Seneca Partners) names Rosemont Seneca Thornton, LLC as one of its early shareholders.
The precise purpose of Rosemont Seneca Thornton, LLC beyond serving as an apparent pass-through entity for Baturina's wire transfers remains unclear. The Financial Times reported that Rosemont Seneca Thornton, LLC held 30% of Bohai Harvest RST, which Hunter Biden co-founded and directed. Author Peter Schweizer (who first reported many of the Bidens' international business dealings) says that "RST" stands for “Rosemont Seneca Thornton,” as a BHR document implied.
The day after the $3.5 million wire, Archer sent details of Baturina's upcoming meeting at the high-powered law firm Skadden Arps (scheduled for Feb. 18, 2014).
"Wet signatures will be required from [Baturina] on two forms," Archer wrote, adding that after executing those forms, Baturina's "accounts will be open and we'll follow up next week on the plan for funding [Burnham ventures]."
The memos suggest Baturina's financial stake in Archer's firms grew rapidly.
By August 2014, Archer told informed colleagues at a private "Burnham Investors Trust" meeting that Baturina had invested more than $200 million in his various ventures. The minutes record that at the private Burnham meeting, Archer "discussed his client relationship with Yelena Baturina, who [Archer] said had invested over $200 million dollars in his various investment funds."
A 2015 Burnham "pitch deck" presentation to investors identified Hunter Biden as "Vice-Chairman" of Burnham & Co. and the "CEO of Burnham Advisors a Washington DC Advisory firm that was acquired by Burnham Financial in 2014." A separate Burnham presentation states that "H. Biden broker dealer tuck-under enhances relationships."