Hunter Biden Tried to Broker Energy Deal With China’s State-Owned Oil Company: Emails

By Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang
Frank Fang is a Taiwan-based journalist. He covers U.S., China, and Taiwan news. He holds a master's degree in materials science from Tsinghua University in Taiwan.
February 9, 2022Updated: February 9, 2022

Hunter Biden, the second son of U.S. President Joe Biden, tried to broker a $120 million oil agreement in 2014 and 2015 between a Chinese state-owned oil company and Kazakhstan’s prime minister at that time, according to emails recently obtained by British newspaper the Daily Mail.

The Chinese oil company alleged to be part of the deal, the State China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), isn’t an ordinary firm. In 2021, the U.S. Commerce Department identified the company as posing a threat to U.S. national security and added it to a trade blacklist called the “Entity List.”

The Pentagon named CNOOC as one of Beijing’s “military companies” in December 2020. That month, the U.S. State Department asked U.S. investors (pdf) to steer away from investing in stock and bond indices having “malign PRC companies” on their portfolios, with CNOOC being one of the many companies named. The People’s Republic of China is the official title of China.

The Daily Mail obtained the emails from what is alleged to be Biden’s abandoned laptop, showing him traveling to Beijing and Kazakhstan in an effort to broker the oil deal in the two-year period. At that time, he tried to negotiate the deal on behalf of a Ukrainian energy firm named Burisma for which he was a board member, according to the outlet.

According to the emails, the plan was for the Kazakh government to award drilling rights to CNOOC, while Burisma would operate rigs and wells in the Central Asian country.

Kazakhstan, once a part of the Soviet Union, is rich in oil and natural gas, sitting on one of the largest oil reserves in the world. Currently, an oil pipeline runs from Atasu, a town in Kazakhstan, to Alashankou, a border city in China’s far-western Xinjiang region.

Biden apparently tried to team up with Karim Massimov, who was Kazakh prime minister from 2007 to 2012 and from 2014 to 2016, to make the deal happen. In the emails, Biden described Massimov as a “close friend” and his son as a “very good friend.”

Massimov also headed Kazakhstan’s intelligence agency—the National Security Committee (KNB) that succeeded the Soviet-era KGB—until he was sacked in early January. Soon after, he was detained on suspicion of treason.

According to the Daily Mail, there’s no indication that the treason charge against Massimov is connected to the oil deal.

Hunter Biden
President Joe Biden walks with his son Hunter Biden, second from left, as Hunter carries his son Beau and walks next to his wife, Melissa Cohen, center, before boarding Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., on March 26, 2021. (Patrick Semansky/AP Photo)

The oil deal allegedly involved Devon Archer, Biden’s longtime business partner who also sat on Burisma’s board in 2014, according to the emails.

“If we can connect the dots here between CNOOC and Burisma we can do only that, forever. Let’s brainstorm,” Archer wrote to Biden in an April 2014 email.

In response to the email, Biden wrote: “Thinking the same thing. Fraught with many land mines- but …”

According to the Daily Mail, Biden flew to China less than a month after the email exchange and met with CNOOC executives.

In a May 2014 email, Biden asked Archer to “explain to me how Burisma/KZ/China deal would look … What quantity of Nat Gas are we talking and is there capacity on the KZ pipeline into China?” KZ is short for Kazakhstan.

Archer wrote in reply: “Quick answer is I do not have an answer just yet … CNOOC is a nice to have in the situation that make it a silver bullet. I do know that.”

In another email, Archer told Burisma executive Vadim Pozharsky that a meeting with the then-Kazakh prime minister “Masimof” was in place and scheduled for June 2, 2014.

The emails don’t make it clear whether the oil deal went through.

Biden was paid more than $83,000 a month for his work on Burisma’s board, a position he held from 2014 until 2019, according to payment records that former Ukrainian law enforcement officials provided to Reuters.

Biden’s business dealings have long been under scrutiny. In September 2020, a Senate report found that he began developing associations with Chinese nationals beginning in at least 2009, the year he co-founded Rosemont Seneca Partners.

In January, FOX Business reported on emails it had obtained, saying Biden once held a stake in a Chinese company with ties to senior party officials of the Chinese regime.

When CNOOC was added to the trade blacklist in January 2021, then-Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said the Chinese oil company helped the Chinese regime intimidate its neighbors in the South China Sea.

“CNOOC acts a bully for the People’s Liberation Army to intimidate China’s neighbors, and the Chinese military continues to benefit from government civil-military fusion policies for malign purposes,” Ross said.

Biden’s attorney Chris Clark didn’t respond to a request for comment by press time.