Ruslan Ryaboshapka, the country’s prosecutor general, said at a news conference on Friday, Oct. 4, that his office will be reviewing cases that have been previously investigated to make sure they were done so in accordance with the law. The review includes cases against Mykola Zlochevsky, owner of Burisma, and gas magnate Serhiy Kurchenko.
“There are 15 cases where Zlochevsky, Biden, Kurchenko, and other people and companies could be involved or could be targets for investigation,” Ryaboshapka said. “We are now looking again at all cases that were closed or broken up or were investigated earlier to make a decision to reconsider those instances where illegal procedural decisions were made.”
At the press conference, Ryaboshapka was pointedly asked whether he would investigate the case of possible corruption linked to former Vice President Joe Biden and his son, Hunter Biden. Ryaboshapka replied that the agency is now “conducting an audit of all cases,” including Burisma.
Ryaboshapka said he was not aware of any evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden and that he had not been contacted by any foreign lawyers about the case.
President Donald Trump asked President Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy in a July 25 phone call to investigate Joe Biden and his son Hunter, who earned money from Burisma.
That call has triggered an impeachment inquiry into whether Trump sought personal political gain by pushing for a foreign investigation into one of his main political rivals.
“I have no such information,” Ryaboshapka told Reuters, when asked whether he had evidence of wrongdoing by Hunter Biden.
The prosecutor’s office did not specify what actions it would take if it is found that some of the cases were closed in ways that had broken the law.
“If it is found that the proceedings have been closed in violation of the law or other procedural violations have been committed, then we will take appropriate decisions,” the prosecutor’s office said in a statement.
Ryaboshapka said the review comes as new legislation in Ukraine will shift investigative power from the Prosecutor’s Office to the State Bureau of Investigation.
“On 20 November 2019, the Prosecutor General’s Office of Ukraine loses investigative powers according to the amendments to the law,” the office said. “According to the Ukrainian legislation, the audit of all criminal proceedings is carried out successively, and they are forwarded to the investigative authorities in conformity with jurisdiction.”
Former Prosecutor Claims Pressure to Drop Biden Probe
The former prosecutor at the heart of the Ukraine controversy was pressured to drop a probe into Burisma, according to notes from a private conversation he had with presidential lawyer Rudy Giuliani.
According to Giuliani’s notes, which were obtained by Fox News, Ukrainian ex-prosecutor Viktor Shokin told Giuliani in a Jan. 23 phone call that his “investigations stopped out of fear of the United States,” after a top diplomat asked that Shokin probe Burisma Holdings with “kid gloves.”
Burisma employed Hunter Biden as a member of its board, paying him up to $50,000 a month. U.S. banking records cited by The Hill indicated Hunter Biden’s American-based firm, Rosemont Seneca Partners LLC, received regular transfers from Burisma from spring 2014 through fall 2015, typically amounting to more than $166,000 a month. The period in question is when Joe Biden was America’s point-man on Ukraine matters as vice president.
Giuliani’s notes, as cited by Fox, say that “Mr. Shokin attempted to continue the investigations but on or around June or July of 2015, the U.S. Ambassador [to Ukraine] Geoffrey R. Pyatt told him that the investigation has to be handled with white gloves, which according to Mr. Shokin, that implied do nothing.”
‘He Got Fired’
Shokin was fired in April 2016, amid long-standing charges of corruption. In March of the same year, Joe Biden threatened to cut off $1 billion in guaranteed loans to Ukraine unless Shokin was dismissed.
“I looked at them and said: I’m leaving in six hours. If the prosecutor is not fired, you’re not getting the money,” Biden recounted at the Council on Foreign Relations in 2018. “Well, son of a [expletive], he got fired. And they put in place someone who was solid at the time.”
Shokin also told a European court in a sworn affidavit that he was removed because he refused to drop the investigation.
“The truth is that I was forced out because I was leading a wide-ranging corruption probe into Burisma Holdings, a natural gas firm active in Ukraine, and Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was a member of the Board of Directors,” Shokin wrote.
Shokin said former Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko came to him multiple times and asked him to close down the probe into Burisma but the prosecutor refused.
“In my conversations with Poroshenko at the time, he was emphatic that I should cease my investigations regarding Burisma. When I did not, he said that the U.S. (via Biden) were refusing to release the USD$ 1 billion promised to Ukraine. He said that he had no choice.”
President Donald Trump has claimed the reason Biden wanted Shokin fired was due to the Burisma probe, out of consideration for the interests of his son.
“Look, Biden and his son are stone-cold crooked. And you know it. His son walks out with millions of dollars. The kid knows nothing. You know it, and so do we,” Trump said at an Oct. 2 press conference.
However, the now-former Ukrainian prosecutor who Shokin was replaced with told the BBC that a probe into the Bidens would have to start in the United States.
“I don’t know any reason to investigate Joe Biden or Hunter Biden according to Ukrainian law,” said Yuriy Lutsenko, who stepped down last month. “It is the jurisdiction of the US,” he said, adding that any “possible embezzlement” at Burisma “happened two or three years before Hunter Biden became a member of the board.”
Ukraine’s National Anti-Corruption Bureau said on Sept. 27 it was investigating activity at Burisma between 2010-2012, but that it was not looking into changes to its board in 2014, when Hunter Biden joined.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s former prime minister has called for a renewed investigation into Hunter Biden’s involvement with Burisma.
“I think it’s essential (he’s investigated),” Mykola Azarov told Reuters in Moscow, where he fled after street protests toppled Russia-friendly President Viktor Yanukovich in 2014.
“If, using his knowledge, he played an active role then there’s nothing scandalous about it,” Azarov said, referring to Hunter Biden’s role at the company. “But if he was simply on the books and getting money, then that could be seen as a violation of the law.”
Azarov added that he believes allegations from Giuliani and others that Joe Biden got Ukraine’s prosecutor general fired to protect his son should also be investigated.
Reuters contributed to this report.