Chuck Ross, DCNF
Ukrainian officials announced Saturday they intercepted a $6 million bribe offered to stop an investigation into the founder of Burisma Holdings, the energy firm that had Hunter Biden as a board member until 2019.
Artem Sytnyk, the head of Ukraine’s national anti-corruption bureau (NABU), said at a press conference in Kyiv that $6 million in cash was recovered during a sting operation on Friday. He said that three people were detained in the operation, including a Burisma employee and a current and former Ukrainian tax official, according to Reuters.
Sytnyk said that $5 million in bribe money was offered to NABU officials, and another $1 million was reserved for a middleman who brokered the deal.
It is the largest bribe attempt uncovered in Ukraine’s history, he said.
The bribe was allegedly offered to end an investigation into Mykola Zlochevsky, a former Ukrainian ecology minister who owns Burisma. Zlochevsky has been under investigation since 2013 for allegedly embezzling funds from a loan from the National Bank of Ukraine.
Burisma tapped Hunter Biden in April 2014 to serve on the company’s board of directors as part of a broad strategy to burnish the company’s reputation amid the allegations surrounding Zlochevsky. Burisma also hired a Washington, D.C.-based consulting firm, Blue Star Strategies, to lobby the State Department and Congress on its behalf.
Hunter Biden’s position on the Burisma board has come under scrutiny given Joe Biden’s role in the Obama administration as the chief liaison to Ukraine.
President Donald Trump and his allies have accused Joe Biden of forcing the firing of a Ukrainian prosecutor in 2016 in order to stop an investigation into Burisma. Biden bragged during a speech in January 2018 that he forced former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko to fire the prosecutor, Viktor Shokin, by threatening to withhold $1 billion in loan assistance to Ukraine.
Biden has denied intervening to help Burisma or his son, saying that he and other Western leaders wanted Shokin removed from office for failing to investigate corruption cases.
One NABU official said Saturday that there is no link between the Bidens and the bribe offer.
“Let’s put an end to this once and for all,” he said. “Biden Jr. and Biden Sr. do not appear in this particular proceeding,” he said. Sytnyk said the case had no political subtext.
The House of Representatives impeached Trump on Dec. 18 on charges the he improperly pressured current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate whether Biden intervened to help Burisma. The Senate acquitted Trump on Feb. 5.
Burisma denied taking part in the attempted bribe of NABU.
“The Burisma Group company and its management have nothing to do with the report of the Specialized Anti-Corruption Prosecutor’s Office and some media outlets about participating in illegal actions,” the company said in a statement to The Washington Post.
“The company is operating exclusively within the framework of the current legislation, and it is one of the largest taxpayers and defends the interests of energy independence of Ukraine.”