Hunter Biden is a 50-year-old American lawyer whose elderly father Joe hopes in just over a fortnight to unseat Donald Trump at the U.S. Presidential election.
He’s also a twice-married father of five kids (one via a fleeting affair with a former stripper) who has struggled with cocaine and alcohol addiction for most of his adult life and in 2014, when his dad was Barack Obama‘s Vice President, managed to get booted out of the U.S. Naval Reserve for failing a drug test.
This week saw a vintage ‘October surprise’ when the New York Post obtained footage of Hunter variously: lying in bed smoking a crack pipe; reclining in the bath with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth; and starring in a 12-minute mobile phone video that, in the newspaper’s words, saw him hoofing class A narcotics ‘while engaged in a sex act with an unidentified woman’.
Most sensationally — if you believe the Trump camp, that is — it also published leaked emails that appear to implicate Joe in long-standing controversy over his son’s rackety business career. To understand why, you must first know that Biden Jr has for years been criticised for his lucrative but ethically questionable work overseas, which has often created apparent conflicts of interest with Joe’s official roles.
For example, in 2014, when Joe, as Vice President, was helping to implement U.S. policy in Ukraine, Hunter took a highly-paid job with a Ukranian energy company called Burisma (of which more later).
Around the same time, he built murky and contentious connections with Russia, helping his investment advisory firm Rosemont Seneca receive some $3.5m from the billionaire widow of former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhov (best known on these shores for once donating £138,000 to Sadiq Khan’s Mayor’s Fund for London).
Then there was a somewhat dubious episode in China, where Hunter arranged for an entrepreneur called Jonathan Li, with whom he was setting up an investment fund, to hold a meeting (and enjoy a very public handshake) with Joe in a Beijing hotel lobby during an official visit.
Such ventures, in regions of the world hardly known for their probity, have always smelled distinctly whiffy. So what, then, ought we to make of the revelation that, when his father was Vice President, Biden Jr was doing business in a fourth cash-soaked but highly corrupt country?
The Mail can reveal that between 2012 and 2014, Hunter worked as a sort of go-between for Kenes Rakishev, a self-styled ‘international businessman, investor and entrepreneur’ with close family connections to the kleptocratic regime of his homeland’s despotic former president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
(Nazarbayev is a name readers may be familiar with: he’s the dictator famed for taking Prince Andrew on occasional goose hunts.)
Click here to resize this module
Emails passed to this newspaper via anti-corruption campaigners from the Central Asian country reveal that Biden Jr held extensive meetings with Rakishev, who was looking to invest a portion of his personal fortune in New York and Washington DC. He also travelled to the Kazakh capital of Astana to hold business discussions.
Hunter Biden then attempted to persuade Rakishev to buy into a Nevadan mining company, brokering a series of meetings with the firm, before convincing him to invest a cool million dollars with Alexandra Forbes Kerry, the film-maker daughter of Democrat Senator and former Presidential candidate John Kerry.
Rakishev, who wrote messages in broken English, appears to have become intimate with the Vice President’s son, calling Hunter ‘my brother!’ and ‘my brother from another mother!’.
They shared gossip about their family holidays and dined together at luxury restaurants in New York and Washington DC (‘I’m on vacation with family [at] Lake Michigan . . . trying to spend some much needed time with my wife and daughters. It’s my 20th anniversary of marriage tomorrow,’ Hunter told Rakishev in July 2013).
It may even be that Joe Biden himself was dragged into the oligarch’s orbit. An unverified photograph, published on the website of an anti-corruption group called the Kazakhstani Initiative on Asset Recovery, appears to show Hunter introducing his Dad to both Rakishev and one Karim Massimov, the former Kazakh Prime Minister.
So who exactly is Rakishev?
In the UK, he is perhaps best known due to a bizarre 2008 episode when he’d helped a fellow oligarch chum called Timur Kulibayev use a firm registered in the British Virgin Islands buy a home from (that man again!) Prince Andrew: his Windsor mansion Sunninghill Park, which oddly went for £15 million, some £3 million over the asking price.
Coverage of the episode had noted that Kulibayev was the son-in-law of the aforementioned despot Nazarbayev, who ruled Kazakhstan for more than two decades, turning it into one of the world’s most corrupt kleptocracies.
Rakishev, for his part, is married to the daughter of a former mayor of the country’s capital city (recently re-named ‘Nursultan,’ after the elderly despot), who later served as its Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. All in all it was an intriguing nexus.
Fast forward to 2012 and Rakishev had just joined Forbes magazine’s top-15 list of Kazakhstan’s ‘most influential’ tycoons, with estimated assets of some $332 million. Like many an oligarch in possession of a huge fortune, Rakishev was now looking for a safe place to park it, so had come to America in search of new places to invest his hard-earned roubles.
Sadly, things hadn’t gone entirely smoothly. For in the highly-regulated world of Western capitalism, Rakishev discovered that blue-chip investment partners were often reluctant to take his cash.
To blame? The fact that no one was entirely sure where his wealth actually came from.
For example, the leaked emails obtained by the Mail show that the International Finance Corporation, a highly respectable sister organisation of the World Bank, held preliminary talks with Rakishev about a business collaboration, before deciding to pull out.
I can reveal that the IFC then politely informed the oligarch that it ‘cannot invest with him’ because its ‘very deep due diligence processes’ had established that he had some ‘connections’ involving the ‘president’s family’ that ‘are a liability to us.’
Seemingly outraged, Rakishev responded that he would ensure that the organisation ‘never works in Kazakhstan with anyone.’
The United States Department of Justice then took an interest in Rakishev. It soon dragged him into an investigation of potential breaches the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act related to ‘an investment in the oil and gas industry in Kazakhstan’.
Though Rakishev immediately denied all wrongdoing, and no charges were ever filed, in September 2013 he decided to hire a notoriously expensive U.S. law firm called Greenberg Traurig to deal with incoming fire related to the probe.
It seems that two attorneys who led a team working the Kazakh’s case, John Pappalardo and Stanford Saunders, charged him in the region of $1,000 and $700 per hour respectively.
It was, doubtless, a very annoying (and expensive) business; not to mention highly frustrating for a man who had perhaps grown used to getting his own way. Which is perhaps what persuaded him to take meetings with Hunter Biden, a member of one of America’s most powerful political dynasties.
In May 2012, he was emailed by Hunter’s business partner Devon Archer, a lawyer and former Abercrombie & Fitch model. ‘Can you have dinner with me, Hunter Biden, Alex [Forbes Kerry] and team on Wednesday next week in NYC? I want to let Hunter know when he should come up from DC to see you on Wednesday. Looking forward to seeing you!’
Rakishev replied: ‘Hi Devon! I would be happy to have a dinner with you and all our friends! Thank you very much for invitations! Take care my brother!’
By July, Hunter had travelled to Astana to discuss business opportunities. ‘I wanted to check in with you and see what our next steps are to follow up on our visit to Kazakhstan,’ he wrote in an email to Rakishev sent shortly afterwards. ‘Let me know if you need anything from me.’
Three months later, Biden was helping Rakishev hold discussions about investing in Prospect Global Resources, a potash mining firm based in eastern Arizona.
Although the emails the Mail has seen show that the talks eventually broke down, he remained on friendly terms: ‘I wanted to reach back out to you and continue our conversations,’ Hunter wrote to Kulibayev on November 25, 2012. ‘I understand you and Timur evaluated PGRX but it was not a good fit at this time. Thank you for taking a look at it and for the quick feedback as well. Let me know when you’d like to connect.’
The duo remained in close contact throughout the following year, discussing a range of business ventures.
Then, in late October 2013, Biden’s partner Archer arranged a conference call between Rakishev and the aforementioned Alex Forbes Kerry, who was by then attempting to raise cash to launch a film production firm.
Immediately after the call that December, Rakishev emailed with happy news: ‘Thank you my brother from another mother! Thanks you very much my brother! We decided to invest 1 mln [million]! Give them my email!’
Ms Forbes Kerry, who has never publicly acknowledged her debt to Rakishev, finalised the deal in January 2014. The following month, she and Biden met Rakishev for dinner in Washington DC.
‘It was a pleasure to meet you with Devon and Hunter the other day,’ she told him by email afterwards. ‘I want to thank you for the beautiful watch! I am sorry I didn’t open it at the table. I misunderstood and thought it was a baby present so I only opened it when I was at home. It is absolutely beautiful and you are so generous . . . Please come to New York soon and bring your family. We will host you and your team.’
Rakishev responded that he intended to take up that offer in September. ‘Let’s be in touch!’ he wrote.
Sadly, at the time of this happy exchange, Biden’s marriage was in the process of breaking down. Things culminated in a spectacularly hostile divorce in which his wife Kathleen claimed he had spent ‘extravagantly on his own interests (including drugs, alcohol, prostitutes, strip clubs, and gifts for women with whom he has sexual relations), while leaving the family with no money to pay legitimate bills.’
In 2017 it was revealed that he was dating Hallie Olivere, the widow of his brother, Beau Biden, a U.S. politician who died from a brain tumour in 2015. The pair separated a few months later.
Earlier this year, Hunter was meanwhile sued for child support by a former stripper called Lunden Alexis Roberts who successfully claimed he was father of her child. He recently married for a second time to film-maker Melissa Cohen.
By then, Hunter was of course the subject of a spectacular political controversy. This stemmed from his decision in 2014 to accept a $50,000-a-month job on the board of Burisma, a Ukranian gas and oil company.
The role, for which Hunter had no obvious qualifications (in an industry he’d never worked in), came at a time when his father Joe was touring the region as Barack Obama’s Vice President, seeking to shore up support for Ukraine’s government following Russia’s annexation of the Crimea.
Via Joe, the White House was not only lobbying Ukraine to become more energy independent by exporting oil and gas to the West, but also calling for its government to do more to root out corruption.
In particular, the U.S. and its allies were calling for the dismissal of the country’s top prosecutor who was, at the time, carrying out an investigation into alleged malfeasance at Burisma.
All of which meant that the Vice President of America appeared to be using his position to endorse policies that would generate huge profits for a company that had suddenly decided to hire his own son as a director.
As The Guardian newspaper at the time put it: ‘Putin’s propaganda people can take a long weekend. Their work is being done for them!’
This week’s emails leaked to the New York Post suggest that in return for his fat salary, Hunter in 2015 may have attempted to arrange for a senior Burisma executive called Vadym Pozharskyi ‘spend some time together’ with Joe in Washington DC.
It remains unclear whether any such meeting occurred. Indeed, Biden’s campaign, while not disputing the authenticity of the emails, this week issued a carefully-worded statement insisting that ‘no meeting, as alleged by the New York Post, ever took place’.
Be that as it may, Donald Trump long ago developed something of an obsession with this affair.
Last year, it emerged he’d threatened to withdraw U.S. support for Ukraine unless the country’s government agreed to investigate Hunter Biden’s links to Burisma.
In Washington, this then triggered an eventually unsuccessful attempt to impeach Trump for misusing presidential powers by allegedly soliciting the interference of a foreign government to aid his re-election. By way of response, Republicans in the U.S. Senate commissioned a highly critical report into business affairs.
Buried on Page 70 of that 87-page report was the news on April 22, 2014 — just three months after the $1m film production deal was concluded — an offshore company called Novatus wired some $143,000 to Hunter Biden’s own firm Rosemont Seneca, saying that the cash was ‘for a car’.
The report added that the ‘sole shareholder’ of Novatus was one Kenes Rakishev, and says that his receipt of this cash was ‘especially concerning’.
But as we can today reveal, Hunter Biden’s real relationship with the hugely rich oligarch actually runs far deeper than anyone — even Donald Trump — has previously dreamed.