8 Dec 2023

Hunter Biden faces second federal indictment, this time on tax evasion

7:23 pm on 8 December 2023
(FILES) Hunter Biden arrives for a toast during an official State Dinner in honor of India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi, at the White House in Washington, DC, on June 22, 2023. Hunter Biden was indicted late December 7, 2023 on nine counts of tax evasion, the second time this year President Joe Biden's troubled son has been charged by a special counsel investigating his personal and business dealings. (Photo by Stefani Reynolds / AFP)

Hunter Biden is the US President's only surviving son. Photo: STEFANI REYNOLDS / AFP

By Chloe Kim for the BBC

Federal prosecutors have filed tax charges against Hunter Biden, a second criminal case against the US president's son.

The nine-count indictment says he schemed to evade at least US$1.4m (NZ$2.3m) in federal taxes from 2016-19.

The three felonies and six misdemeanours include failure to file and pay taxes, false tax return and evasion of assessment.

Hunter Biden was indicted in September on federal firearm charges in Delaware.

The 53-year-old son of President Joe Biden has already pleaded not guilty in the gun case.

The White House did not comment on the new charges on Thursday night. It comes as congressional Republicans place Hunter Biden's business dealings at the centre of an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, who is seeking re-election next year.

If convicted in the tax case, Hunter Biden could face up to 17 years in prison.

US Department of Justice Special Counsel David Weiss has been investigating the Yale-educated lawyer and recovering crack cocaine addict since 2019.

In a 56-page indictment filed in California, prosecutors allege he spent his money on "drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing, and other items of a personal nature, in short, everything but his taxes".

They say the president's son "individually received more than US$7 million in total gross income" between 2016 and 2020, but "willfully failed to pay his 2016, 2017, 2018, and 2019 taxes on time, despite having access to funds to pay some or all of these taxes".

Hunter Biden's attorney, Abbe Lowell, responded to the new charges by saying that "if Hunter's last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought".

Hunter Biden eventually paid all his taxes and fines back in 2020 - with the help of a loan from his personal attorney.

A chart inside the indictment outlines what Hunter Biden spent his money on.

Between 2016-19, he paid over US$188,000 for "adult entertainment" and over US$683,000 on "payments - various women", according to the charge sheet.

Hunter Biden "continued to earn handsomely and to spend wildly in 2018", prosecutors allege.

The indictment notes he made "substantial" income, including from a company he formed with a Chinese business conglomerate, the Ukrainian energy company Burisma and an unnamed Romanian businessperson.

As his income increased, so did his expenditures on an "extravagant lifestyle", says the indictment.

In 2018, the defendant spent more than US$1.8m, including hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash withdrawals, about US$383,000 in payments to women and US$151,000 on clothing.

Yet that same year, Hunter Biden texted his ex-wife that he could not make his alimony payment "due to insufficient funds".

He meanwhile stayed at various luxury hotels, spent US$10,000 "to purchase a membership in a sex club" and claimed that US$1,248 cross country airline tickets for an exotic dancer were a business expense, according to the indictment.

Prosecutors note that he "had sufficient funds available… to pay some or all of his outstanding taxes when they were due", but chose not to do so.

He allegedly often wrote off personal expenses as business expenses, like a rental of a Lamborghini that he drove when he first moved to California in April 2018 until his Porsche arrived from the east coast.

(FILES) US President Joe Biden, with son Hunter Biden, arrives at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, New York, on February 4, 2023. The US Justice Department on Friday escalated its investigation into President Joe Biden's son Hunter, naming a special counsel amid allegations he engaged in illicit business deals overseas.
Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed Delaware federal prosecutor David Weiss, who recently investigated Hunter Biden on tax and gun charges in a case that remains open. Weiss, who opened his probe in 2019, recently revealed that he was investigating Biden along other lines, and Garland said Weiss had requested special counsel status to be able to pursue his probe more widely. (Photo by ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP)

US President Joe Biden, with son Hunter Biden, arrives at Hancock Field Air National Guard Base in Syracuse, New York, on February 4, 2023. The US Justice Department on Friday escalated its investigation into President Joe Biden's son Hunter, naming a special counsel amid allegations he engaged in illicit business deals overseas. Photo: ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP

On one occasion, the defendant did not note a US$1500 Venmo payment in August 2018 as a personal expense.

Though the payment was described as "artwork", prosecutors say it was to an exotic dancer at a strip club, who "had not sold him any artwork", says the court papers.

The defendant also allegedly used his business line of credit to pay for his daughter's rent in New York City, about US$19,535, and to make payments to an online pornography website - about US$27,316.

Hunter Biden also claimed extensive business travel in 2018 when he had none, says the indictment.

It also refers to someone who brought a paternity suit against the defendant after being involved in a romantic relationship with him.

It alleges Hunter Biden placed this individual - named as Person 1 - on the payroll shortly after she moved to Arkansas while pregnant with his child, even though she did not perform any work.

Person 1 received US$22,500 in wages, which Hunter Biden falsely claimed as a business deduction, according to prosecutors.

While Person 1 is not named in the indictment, she is believed to be Lunden Roberts, a stripper who is the mother of Hunter Biden's long-unacknowledged daughter.

Earlier this year, Hunter Biden had been expected to plead guilty to misdemeanour tax charges in a deal with prosecutors.

But that agreement fell apart after a judge questioned it as "unusual". Congressional Republicans later slammed it as a "sweetheart deal".

This summer, two Internal Revenue Service (IRS) whistleblowers testified to Congress that Hunter Biden should have been charged with more serious tax crimes, but alleged he received lenient treatment as the son of the president.

Gary Shapley and Joseph Ziegler said Thursday's indictment serves as "complete vindication".

"Eight months ago we did something ordinary people don't do: we risked our careers and reputations to bring the truth out of the shadows and into the light," they said in a joint statement. "This is much bigger than our investigation or any one individual: it's about equal treatment of taxpayers under the law."

The House of Representatives Oversight Committee is currently leading an impeachment inquiry of President Biden, claiming he was involved in an influence-peddling scheme with his son.

While congressional Republicans on the panel have produced bank statements that they argue prove Joe Biden lied when he denied benefiting from his son's business dealings, the White House has said the entire inquiry is based on lies.

* This story was first published by the BBC.

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