Over the weekend Ukrainian government officials announced they have intercepted a $6 million bribe attempt intended to stop a state criminal investigation into the president of energy giant Burisma. The firm is steeped in controversy because Hunter Biden, the son of de facto Democrat presidential nominee Joe Biden, once had a seat on the company’s board even though he had no experience whatsoever in the energy field. He joined the Burisma board in 2014, when his father was still vice president and the main figure in U.S. relations with Ukraine. He left the position in 2018.
As the U.S. election cycle heats up over the summer and the national nominating conventions take place, scrutiny over the Biden (both father and son) relationship to Burisma may become an issue used by the Trump campaign to negatively affect the way voters see the former vice president. This is especially true because there is video of Biden bragging of how he got the prosecutor who was leading the probe into his son’s firm fired; the then-vice president said they could possibly lose a billion dollars in U.S. funding.
Former Ukrainian prosecutor-general Viktor Shokin has claimed he was pushed out by Joe Biden’s threat of delaying the $1 billion loan to the country, to prevent him from investigating Hunter Biden’s role at Burisma.
The obvious quid quo pro stands in stark contrast to the unsuccessful charges brought against President Donald Trump in the impeachment trial in the Senate earlier this year. At the outset of that trial, President Trump was acquitted on all charges and exonerated on the issue.
The Ukrainian national anti-corruption prosecutor Nazar Kholodnitsky and the head of the national anti-corruption bureau, Artem Sytnik, said the bribe was intended to encourage their offices to halt a probe of Mykola Zlochevsky, the head of Burisma and a former minister of ecology. Zlochevsky was accused of using his government position for personal gain. Post Soviet states have a recent history of corruption at most levels of government. Russia has also been plagued with criminal oligarchs since the downfall of the Soviet Union in 1991.
To have an American presidential candidate, not to mention a former vice president, mixed up in this kind of foreign corruption would be problematic for U.S.-Ukrainian relations under a possible Biden administration, as Biden would be open for compromise if details of his dealings, or those of his son, on sensitive matters regarding Burisma ever saw the light of day.
Three individuals, including a high-ranking tax service official, have been detained in connection with the attempted bribe, officials said Saturday. As the facts emerge in this bribery attempt they may point to those who have met with or have a connection to Burisma, Hunter Biden, or Joe Biden. If that is the case, the Bursima issue will only grow to be a bigger threat to the Biden candidacy as November approaches.