Ukraine will review 15 investigations, including those into a local company affiliated with Hunter Biden, the son of Joseph Biden, the former U.S. vice president and 2020 Democratic Party presidential candidate.
The announcement by Ukrainian Prosecutor General Ruslan Ryaboshapka comes amid a U.S. House impeachment inquiry into whether U.S. President Donald Trump pressured his Ukrainian counterpart, Volodymyr Zelensky, into investigating the Bidens and Burisma.
Riaboshapka on Oct. 4 said his office would review criminal investigations led by his predecessors, including the investigations into ex-President Viktor Yanukovych’s Ecology Minister Mykola Zlochevsky and his gas company, Burisma.
Hunter Biden was a member of the board of directors at Burisma in 2014-2019.
Prosecutors opened several investigations into Zlochevsky and Burisma in 2014, yet all but one had since been closed. Trump’s administration has been pushing Zelensky to restart investigations, and apparently conditioned a meeting with Trump at the White House and $391 million in financial aid to Ukraine on compliance.
“Currently we are reviewing the criminal cases that have been previously pursued by the Prosecutor General’s Office,” Ryaboshapka said at a news briefing. “The sphere you’re talking about features (Burisma owner and former Ecology Minister Mykola) Zlochevsky, (Yanukovych ally and tycoon Serhiy) Kurchenko and other people and companies – there are about 15 such cases.”
Ryaboshapka said that the prosecutor’s office is “reviewing all cases that were closed or split or were under investigation in order to make decisions in cases when there were violations of procedure.”
Ryaboshapka’s statements followed a release by the U.S. House of Representatives of conversations between former U.S. Special Representative in Ukraine Kurt Volker, U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, acting U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor, and Andri Yermak, an aide to Zelensky.
The conversations appear to imply that a Ukrainian investigation into the Bidens was a condition for U.S. President Donald Trump’s agreement to a meeting with Zelensky at the White House and for $391.5 million in U.S. security assistance for Ukraine.
In the conversations, the parties discuss that Zelensky has to make a public statement committing to investigating the Bidens. In exchange, Ukraine would get military aid and a meeting between the presidents.
Zelensky never made such a statement. Yet Ryaboshapka’s comments on Oct. 4 appear to be close to what Trump’s administration demanded from Ukraine.
On Sept. 24, the House of Representatives initiated an impeachment inquiry against Trump over allegations that he was pressuring foreign nations, including Ukraine, to advance his own political interests.
The House released a whistleblower complaint alleging that Trump had pressured Zelensky to investigate Hunter Biden over his work in Ukraine during a phone conversation on July 25. The elder Biden is currently the Democratic Party presidential candidate most likely to face off against Trump in the 2020 election.
On Sept. 25, the White House released a memorandum reconstructing the phone conversation between Trump and Zelensky. The memo revealed that Trump wanted Zelensky to “look into” the case of Hunter Biden. Zelensky and Trump denied accusations of pressure.
Ukrainian ex-Prosecutor General Yuriy Lutsenko has been accused of trying to curry favor with Trump by commenting on the Bidens’ activities in Ukraine.
In April, Lutsenko hinted that the Prosecutor General’s Office was investigating Hunter Biden. Later, Lutsenko backtracked, claiming that prosecutors did not suspect Joseph Biden or his son of any wrongdoing.
However, top prosecutor Kostyantyn Kulik told the Kyiv Post in May that the Prosecutor General’s Office had been investigating Joe Biden. A memo allegedly leaked from the Prosecutor General’s Office by ex-lawmaker Sergii Leshchenko shows that prosecutors accused Joe Biden of receiving “an unlawful benefit” from Burisma Group. Biden and his son deny the accusations of wrongdoing.
In March, Lutsenko’s office formally issued a notice of suspicion against Zlochevsky, accusing him of laundering $36 million but the Bidens were not charged with anything.
Sabotage of Zlochevsky cases
Ironically, long before the presidential campaign in the U.S. kicked off, Lutsenko and ex-Ukrainian prosecutors general Viktor Shokin and Vitaly Yarema were accused of sabotaging cases against Zlochevsky. They denied the accusations.
Lutsenko’s office closed an Hr 1 billion tax evasion case against Zlochevsky’s Burisma Group in 2017, with Burisma paying just Hr 180 million into the budget.
Before the case was closed, journalist Olga Vasilevska published what she claimed to be photos of lawmaker Ihor Kononenko, a top ally of ex-President Petro Poroshenko, meeting in Vienna with Zlochevsky. Zlochevsky’s Burisma group has supplied natural gas to firms owned by Poroshenko and his top allies Kononenko and Oleh Gladkovsky, according to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Schemes investigative show.
Oleksandr Onyshchenko, a fugitive lawmaker charged with theft, claims that Zlochevsky paid about $80 million to Poroshenko to unfreeze Burisma’s assets in Ukraine. Poroshenko and Zlochevsky deny the claim.
In 2015, the Prosecutor General’s Office ordered a freeze on the assets of Burisma and other firms controlled by Zlochevsky as part of an embezzlement case. But later courts unfroze them, and prosecutors did not dispute the rulings.
A separate unlawful enrichment case was opened against Zlochevsky after the 2013-2014 EuroMaidan Revolution.
The U.K. subsequently opened a money laundering case against Zlochevsky and froze his accounts worth $23 million. But the accounts were unfrozen in early 2015 due to Ukrainian prosecutors’ failure to provide assistance in the case. The Prosecutor General’s Office said then that there were no grounds for issuing a notice of suspicion for Zlochevsky.
Then-Deputy Prosecutor General Mykola Herasymiuk, who later became a parliamentary aide to Poroshenko ally Oleksandr Hranovsky, was accused of helping Zlochevsky in late 2014. He transferred the case from the prosecutor’s office to the police and failed to help British authorities to investigate the money laundering case.
According to emails obtained by the Organized Crime and Corruption Reporting Project, a Kyiv Post partner, Herasymiuk was being offered bribes to drop charges against associates of Yanukovych. Herasymiuk told OCCRP he had no personal email address
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