Hunter Biden failed to register as a foreign agent during years of overseas business dealings — a possible crime that could finally land him in prison, experts say.
While Biden registered as a lobbyist for domestic interests (a gig which so annoyed President Obama that Biden was forced to drop it in 2008), he never registered under the federal Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
The 1938 law has in recent years been employed to shine a light on foreign advocacy and lobbying in the US. It mandates individuals acting as “an agent, representative, employee, or servant … at the order, request, or under the direction or control of a ‘foreign principal,’” must register with the US government. Failing to do so is a crime punishable by up to five years in federal prison and a $250,000 fine.
“Foreign principal” is broadly defined, and can include government officials, foreign corporations, political organizations, influential private interests and more.
The Post’s examination of Biden’s infamous abandoned laptop in the last year has exposed myriad foreign business schemes the then-Vice President’s son tried to shepherd. Last week The Post revealed dozens of sit-downs between Hunter and Joe Biden that were frequently scheduled just days after Hunter visited with foreign officials.
“The recent disclosures of additional foreign contacts has only strengthened what was already a strong case. Indeed, in the last few weeks, the compelling basis for a FARA charge has becomes unassailable and undeniable,” said George Washington University Law Professor Jonathan Turley, who has testified before Congress on the issue.
“The influence peddling schemes directly reference the President and [Joe Biden] is repeatedly cited as a possible recipient of funds,” Turley continued.
The first son’s foreign dealings are almost certainly part of an ongoing Justice Department investigation — which has reportedly reached a “critical stage.” The inquiry began as a tax probe in 2018 but has expanded considerably since a series of New York Post exposes showed how Hunter Biden’s private business interests became commingled with his father’s public career. The revelations were contained on a laptop abandoned by Hunter Biden at a Delaware computer repair shop in April 2019.
The probe now reportedly includes potential violations of foreign lobbying laws and money laundering. But insiders say the first son could receive a “generous” plea agreement.” House Republicans have vowed their own investigation should they retake the majority in the upcoming midterm elections.
Hunter Biden’s overseas exploits have run the gamut of potential behavior possibly violating FARA. In China, his work for energy company CEFC dovetailed with that company’s interest in gaining influence in the United States. When the New York Times wrote in 2018 about CEFC boss Ye Jianming’s attempts to court Hunter Biden, his father called him to say “I think you’re clear,” according to a voicemail stored on the laptop.
After additional revelations from The Post in 2020, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) sent a letter to the Justice Department demanding a review of possible FARA violations. Former Hunter Biden business partner Tony Bobulinski said in public comments at the time that the Chinese saw Hunter Biden “as a political or influence investment.”
“Since then, I’ve only seen and gathered more records and information that confirm that [Hunter Biden and his uncle James Biden] are closely linked to foreign interests,” Grassley told The Post.
While Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid Hunter Biden $83,333 a month to sit on its board, Hunter Biden introduced Vadym Pozharskyi — one of the company’s top executives — to his father, emails show. Less than a year later, Vice President Biden pressured government officials in Ukraine into firing a prosecutor who was investigating the company.
In Washington D.C. Hunter Biden’s calendar shows he paraded the former president of Colombia, Andrés Pastrana Arango, in front of his father during a March 2, 2012 meeting. On Nov. 3, 2015, Hunter met with Crown Prince Alexander Karađorđević of Yugoslavia and his wife, Crown Princess Katherine of Serbia. The royals told The Post they has pressed Hunter to put in a word with his father for funding to help rehab their royal palace in Belgrade.
“If Hunter relayed the request for US government assistance then that would be a FARA registrable event,” Craig Engle, a FARA expert and head of the political law practice at Arent Fox Schiff, said of the royal ask.
“Given the nature of the client, given the nature of the work, and given his relationship with Joe Biden as demonstrated on his calendar, it makes it likely that FARA is part of an investigation,” Engle said.
Hunter Biden and Eric Schwerin, the president of Hunter’s investment firm Rosemont Seneca Partners, even discussed their worries over domestic and foreign lobbying rules and appear to have consciously chosen to remain unregistered, hard-drive emails show.
“Was reading an article saying how [former White House Chief of Staff William] Daley was never a ‘registered’ lobbyist although he directed [Telecoms company] SBC and JP Morgan’s lobbying efforts. Also the article noted that he was registered as Foreign Lobbyist under FARA at one point … sometimes I wonder why we stress about this so much,” Schwerin wrote to Hunter in Jan. 8, 2011.
If Hunter Biden does face prosecution from the feds over FARA-related violations, he would be in good company. One of the friends found on his hard drive, Greg Craig, faced similar accusations.
Craig, a former White House counsel, who later decamped to the white shoe law firm Skadden, Arps, Slate, Meagher & Flom, was prosecuted during the Mueller probe in 2019 for allegedly making false statements to the Justice Department about work he did in Ukraine to avoid registering as a foreign agent under FARA. He was ultimately acquitted.
In 2014 Craig connected Hunter Biden to Mohammed bin Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani, a younger brother of the Emir of Qatar. The two men met in Doha in May 2014 for about 90 minutes. Hunter told Craig they had “a great conversation about all sorts of things.”
Emails show he tried to push the prince into investments and potential partnership with Qatar on Counsyl, a biotech startup that Hunter Biden and his partners had led a $28 million round of investment in that same month.
“Just wanted to check in with you regarding the materials we sent regarding Counsyl,” Hunter Biden emailed the prince on May 22, 2014. “No pressure at all.” An extremely deferential Al-Thani responded two days later — with an apology “for not getting back to you sooner.”
“What I would like to do, if you would permit me, is to follow up with the [Qatar Investment Authority] to see how we can further a partnership through them,” he said — closing the email with a second apology for his delayed response.
Both Craig and Al-Thani did not respond to requests for comment from The Post. Schwerin and Hunter Biden also did not respond to request for comment.
At least one lawmaker was skeptical that the power of FARA will ever be brought to bear on the Bidens.
“Unless the person indicted is a Republican, FARA has historically been a difficult law to prosecute and obtain a conviction for,” Sen Ron Johnson (R-Wisconsin) told The Post. “I have always been suspicious that the criminal investigation of Hunter Biden is another example of the unequal application of justice, with Democrats and their elite allies getting kid glove treatment. My concern is that DOJ will indict Hunter on watered-down charges, and then enter into a plea agreement that includes sealing the records on the case. That would be a travesty, because it would deny the American people of knowing the truth and full extent of Biden family corruption.”