As the Democrat-led impeachment inquiry into President Trump deepens, a spotlight has been cast on Hunter Biden ventures abroad not only in Ukraine but in China, where he set about investing while his dad served as vice president.
The questions come as Republicans are demanding that Hunter Biden – the 49-year-old son of Democratic presidential hopeful Joe Biden – appear before Congress to testify on his work.
For almost six years, the firm connected to Hunter Biden in China has moved more than $2.5 billion into various automotive, technology, energy, and mining endeavors.
Analysts point to the plethora of “ethical challenges” of Hunter doing such deals in China while his father was in the White House.
“At a time when the Obama administration was trying to pivot to Asia, a policy that ultimately fell flat, one has to at least stop and think what connections between policy and personal interests were there,” said Harry Kazianis, senior director for the Center for the National Interest. “While chances are Hunter Biden was doing what a lot of family members of famous politicians do – cash in on their name – it looks dirty.”
Biden served as one of nine directors of the private equity firm Bohai Harvest RST – better known as BHR Partners – which is 80 percent mandated by shareholders in the Chinese government, according to the Wall Street Journal.
The firm was registered less than two weeks after Biden flew with his then-vice president father on Air Force Two for official business in China in December 2013, but his lawyer has previously stated that talks were in place months earlier.
In the closing days of that December, China’s central bank, the Bank of China in conjunction with Rosemount Seneca – the firm Biden founded in 2009 with John Kerry’s stepson Christopher Heinz and family friend Devon Archer – set up the $1 billion investment joint venture called Bohai Harvest RST. The “RS” signifies Rosemount Seneca, and the “T” is in reference to the Thornton Group, a Massachusetts-based international consulting company established by James Bulger, the nephew of infamous mob boss James “Whitey” Bulger.
“The Bank of China is a major Chinese state-run bank, overseen by the powerful China Investment Corporation,” Isaac Stone Fish, a senior fellow at the Asia Society’s Center on U.S.-China Relations, told Fox News. “While it often makes decisions based on economic considerations, it exists to serve the interests of the Chinese Communist Party.”
BHR was named as one of China’s top 10 Mergers & Acquisitions funds in 2017 by Equity Investment Association of China (EIAC) and the Beijing Private Equity Association (BPEA). BHR went on to receive “top honors” at the 2017 China Venture Awards, which also named the CEO Jonathan Li as one of China’s “Top 10 M&A Investors 2016.”
Biden told The New Yorker earlier this year that he did meet with Li on that 2013 taxpayer-funded official visit, but insisted it was a “social meeting.” Biden’s board position, his attorney has stated, was unpaid, and it was not until October 2017 that the younger Biden became a shareholder.
Indeed, the Biden-supported fund fast received notoriety in China. Formed in the Shanghai Free Trade Zone almost six years ago, its website boasts it was the “first cross-border investment private equity firm” and “among China’s first-ever RMB-denominated private equity funds approved by the State Council.”
“BHR benefits from the support of its Chinese stakeholders, including the Bank of China and China Development Bank Capital,” the website reads. “BHR also engages in alternative investments in emerging sectors such as artificial intelligence, FINTECH, automation, and robotics.”
But some of those investments have since been subject to controversy.
BHR Partners has invested in Megvii Technology Inc, a leader in the facial recognition arena with his Face ++. In May, Human Rights Watch (HRW) reported that the technology was associated with a controversial IJOP app used in the surveillance of Uighurs and Chinese Muslims in the Xinjiang region. Megvii later told HRW that the Face++ account contained in the IJOP application code was “never actively used.”
Moreover, in 2015, BHR engaged in a $600 million purchase of Henniges Automotive, the Michigan automotive-suspension systems maker, securing a 49 percent stake. The negotiations were reported to have been mostly conducted by the Chinese government-owned Aviation Industry Corporation of China Ltd, which acquired the remaining 51 percent. The deal had to be reviewed and approved by the Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States.
However, the aircraft company has been subject to national security red flags. A year after the deal had closed, national security experts and analysts expressed concerns that the company, a major supplier of military jets in China, had hacked the U.S. networks to steal the design of the F-35 jet and used the design to build its own jet fighters.
Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, the Senate Finance Committee chairman, is now probing whether Hunter Biden inappropriately leveraged his business ties with the suspect Chinese-backed aviation company.
In a letter to Department of Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin in August, Grassley raised concerns “over the process by which the Obama administration’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) approved the acquisition,” stressing the “conflicts of interest (that) could have influenced CFIUS approval of the Henniges transaction.”
“Congress and the public must fully understand the decision-making process that led to the Henniges approval and the extent to which CFIUS fully considered the transaction’s national security risks,” he wrote, underscoring the Biden and Kerry family associates involved in the deal and pointing out that the Department of State, then under Kerry’s tutelage, “would have played a direct role in the decision to approve the Henniges transaction.”