Just before Obama left office, U.S. officials feared Hunter Biden firm in Ukraine paid second bribe

Fresh corruption allegation about Burisma Holdings was flagged to the top of State Department in December 2016, memos show.

Published: October 1, 2020 4:21pm

Updated: October 1, 2020 11:31pm

Twenty-two days before President Obama left office, the U.S. ambassador to Kiev wrote top officials in Washington that she feared Burisma Holdings had made a second bribe to Ukrainian officials — shortly before a corruption probe against Hunter Biden's natural gas employer was abruptly closed before Donald Trump took office.

The concerns are detailed in new memos belatedly released to Just the News under a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit against the State Department. The suit was brought on behalf of the news organization by the public interest law firm the Southeastern Legal Foundation.

Then-Ambassador Marie Yovanovitch's concerns were first raised in a Ukrainian news story about a Russian-backed fugitive lawmaker in Ukraine, who alleged Burisma had dumped low-priced natural gas into the market for officials near Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to buy low and sell high, making a bribe disguised as a profit.

The scheme was confirmed by U.S. officials before Yovanovitch alerted the top State official for Ukraine and Russia policy in Washington at the time, Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland, the memos show.

"There are accusations that Burisma allegedly had a subsidiary dump natural gas as a way to pay bribes," Yovanovitch wrote Nuland on Dec. 29, 2016, noting the story "mentions that Hunter Biden and former Polish President Kwasniewski are on the Burisma Board."

The alert was the second in two years in which the embassy alleged Burisma had paid a bribe while Vice President Joe Biden's son served on its board.

Back in February 2015, then-embassy official George Kent reported to the U.S. Justice Department evidence that Burisma had made a $7 million cash bribe to Ukrainian prosecutors before those prosecutors killed a separate corruption probe in the United Kingdom by failing to produce required evidence.

The second alleged bribe in December 2016 was brought to the attention of Yovanovitch and Kent, then a top aide to the ambassador, shortly after the Christmas holiday when a story appeared in the Ukrainian press.

"Lots of accusations/innuendo," Yovanovitch was told in an email. "Mentions Biden's son and Kwasniewski are on board of Burisma, which allegedly had a subsidiary dump natural gas recently as a way to pay bribes to P2 inner circle."

P2 was the shorthand State officials in the U.S. embassy in Kiev used to refer to Petro Poroshenko, the Ukrainian president, who was close to Vice President Biden.

Because the allegations were first raised by Oleksander Onyschenko, a fugitive in Ukraine who was tied to Russian sources, as well as Radical Party Leader Oleg Lyashko, embassy officials checked them out and confirmed them before telling Nuland.

"The dumping part is true," the embassy's deputy economic counselor wrote Yovanovitch a few hours after the story surfaced and before Nuland was alerted.

The official told the ambassador a major Ukrainian figure close to Poroshenko was "photographed meeting with [Burisma founder Mykola] Zlochevsky in a Vienna restaurant over the weekend, and Zlochevsky may have handed over a suitcase. You can't make this up."

Within a few days of the bribe claim, word emerged in Ukraine that the prosecutor general's office had settled their long-running corruption case against Burisma in exchange for a tax penalty. Anti-corruption activists in Ukraine quickly expressed their displeasure to American officials.

Inside the embassy, U.S. officials who had worked alongside Vice President Biden for years were resigned to the closure of the case and frustrated that a company tied to Hunter Biden had undercut U.S. efforts to fight endemic corruption in Ukraine

"The Burisma tale of getting a court to shut down a PGO investigation noted below would amount to nearly the same mechanism —  rich connected businessman politician seeks to use the court/judge of unknown reputation to close an investigation of a business with a dodgy reputation," Kent wrote Yovanovitch on Jan. 13, 2017, one week before Trump took office.

Right up to Obama's last day in office, the U.S. embassy officials continued to follow and remark on Burisma's escape from prosecution.

For more than a year, the Bidens, congressional Democrats and their allies in the American media have sought to portray the story of Hunter Biden's work for Burisma as a Russian-inspired conspiracy theory that had been discredited.

But the Obama-Biden era documents gathered by this news organization over more than a year under FOIA clearly show State officials believed the Bidens' behavior created the appearance of a conflict of interest because Joe Biden continued to preside over anti-corruption policy in Ukraine while his son worked for a company under investigation for corruption.

And now the latest documents show those same officials had reported not one, but two alleged efforts by Burisma to pay bribes to end the investigations while the vice president's son served on the company's board.

Unlock unlimited access

  • No Ads Within Stories
  • No Autoplay Videos
  • VIP access to exclusive Just the News newsmaker events hosted by John Solomon and his team.
  • Support the investigative reporting and honest news presentation you've come to enjoy from Just the News.
  • Just the News Spotlight

    Support Just the News