Ex-FBI informant charged with lying about Joe Biden and his son

Credit: REUTERS/ELIZABETH FRANTZ

By Kanishka Singh

WASHINGTON, Feb 15 (Reuters) - The U.S. special counsel leading a criminal probe into President Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden, said a former FBI informant was charged with lying about the pair's alleged involvement in business dealings with Ukrainian energy company Burisma Holdings.

In a statement on Thursday, Special Counsel David Weiss said a federal grand jury had indicted Alexander Smirnov, 43, on charges of making a "false statement" and "creating a false and fictitious record" in relation to an FBI probe. Smirnov faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison if convicted.

Burisma and Hunter Biden's role at the company have been heavily scrutinized following unproven claims from Republican former President Donald Trump and others that Democrat Joe Biden improperly tried to help his son's business interests in Ukraine. The White House has denied the claims.

Smirnov was arrested on Wednesday at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas, Nevada, after his arrival in the U.S. from overseas, Weiss said.

It was not immediately clear whether Smirnov had an attorney.

The indictment unsealed on Thursday appeared to deal a blow to the Republican accusations that the U.S. president profited from his son's business in Ukraine.

"For months we have warned that Republicans have built their conspiracies about Hunter and his family on lies told by people with political agendas, not facts," Hunter Biden's lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said in a statement. "We were right and the air is out of their balloon."

In December, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives voted to formally authorize an ongoing impeachment inquiry into the U.S. president. Some Republicans at the time referenced Hunter Biden's prior role at Burisma to say they were "mighty suspicious of folks from the president's family making tens of millions of dollars in professions in which they had no experience."

Separately, a source said on Thursday that Robert Hur, the U.S. prosecutor who produced a politically explosive report that raised questions about Joe Biden's memory, will testify in March to a House committee playing a lead role in the chamber's impeachment inquiry into the president.

Hunter Biden sat on the board of Burisma from 2014 to 2019. For part of that time, his father was U.S. vice president under former President Barack Obama.

Smirnov had claimed he spoke to the owner to Burisma in 2017 about the energy company's efforts to buy a U.S. firm.

The indictment says that in 2020, Smirnov made false statements recounting two meetings from 2015 or 2016 in which executives associated with Burisma told him they had hired Hunter Biden to "protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems."

The indictment adds that Smirnov also falsely claimed Burisma executives had paid $5 million each to Joe Biden and Hunter Biden when the former was vice president so that his son would "take care of all those issues through his dad," referring to a criminal probe of the energy company by the then-Ukrainian prosecutor general.

Burisma also played a central role in Trump's 2019 impeachment over his alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate the Bidens and help him win re-election. A Republican-majority Senate later acquitted Trump.

(Reporting by Kanishka Singh in Washington; Additional reporting by Andrew Goudsward in Washington Editing by Rami Ayyub and Matthew Lewis)

((Kanishka.Singh@thomsonreuters.com; +12024508248;))

The views and opinions expressed herein are the views and opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Nasdaq, Inc.

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