Hunter Biden is a 50-year-old American lawyer whose elderly father Joe hopes in just over a fortnight to unseat Donald Trump at the U.S. Presidential election.
He’s also a twice-married father of five kids (one via a fleeting affair with a former stripper) who has struggled with cocaine and alcohol addiction for most of his adult life and in 2014, when his dad was Barack Obama‘s Vice President, managed to get booted out of the U.S. Naval Reserve for failing a drug test.
This week saw a vintage ‘October surprise’ when the New York Post obtained footage of Hunter variously: lying in bed smoking a crack pipe; reclining in the bath with a cigarette hanging out of his mouth; and starring in a 12-minute mobile phone video that, in the newspaper’s words, saw him hoofing class A narcotics ‘while engaged in a sex act with an unidentified woman’.
Most sensationally — if you believe the Trump camp, that is — it also published leaked emails that appear to implicate Joe in long-standing controversy over his son’s rackety business career. To understand why, you must first know that Biden Jr has for years been criticised for his lucrative but ethically questionable work overseas, which has often created apparent conflicts of interest with Joe’s official roles.
For example, in 2014, when Joe, as Vice President, was helping to implement U.S. policy in Ukraine, Hunter took a highly-paid job with a Ukranian energy company called Burisma (of which more later).
Around the same time, he built murky and contentious connections with Russia, helping his investment advisory firm Rosemont Seneca receive some $3.5m from the billionaire widow of former Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhov (best known on these shores for once donating £138,000 to Sadiq Khan’s Mayor’s Fund for London).
Then there was a somewhat dubious episode in China, where Hunter arranged for an entrepreneur called Jonathan Li, with whom he was setting up an investment fund, to hold a meeting (and enjoy a very public handshake) with Joe in a Beijing hotel lobby during an official visit.
Such ventures, in regions of the world hardly known for their probity, have always smelled distinctly whiffy. So what, then, ought we to make of the revelation that, when his father was Vice President, Biden Jr was doing business in a fourth cash-soaked but highly corrupt country?
The Mail can reveal that between 2012 and 2014, Hunter worked as a sort of go-between for Kenes Rakishev, a self-styled ‘international businessman, investor and entrepreneur’ with close family connections to the kleptocratic regime of his homeland’s despotic former president Nursultan Nazarbayev.
(Nazarbayev is a name readers may be familiar with: he’s the dictator famed for taking Prince Andrew on occasional goose hunts.)
Emails passed to this newspaper via anti-corruption campaigners from the Central Asian country reveal that Biden Jr held extensive meetings with Rakishev, who was looking to invest a portion of his personal fortune in New York and Washington DC. He also travelled to the Kazakh capital of Astana to hold business discussions.
Hunter Biden then attempted to persuade Rakishev to buy into a Nevadan mining company, brokering a series of meetings with the firm, before convincing him to invest a cool million dollars with Alexandra Forbes Kerry, the film-maker daughter of Democrat Senator and former Presidential candidate John Kerry.
Rakishev, who wrote messages in broken English, appears to have become intimate with the Vice President’s son, calling Hunter ‘my brother!’ and ‘my brother from another mother!’.
They shared gossip about their family holidays and dined together at luxury restaurants in New York and Washington DC (‘I’m on vacation with family [at] Lake Michigan . . . trying to spend some much needed time with my wife and daughters. It’s my 20th anniversary of marriage tomorrow,’ Hunter told Rakishev in July 2013).
It may even be that Joe Biden himself was dragged into the oligarch’s orbit. An unverified photograph, published on the website of an anti-corruption group called the Kazakhstani Initiative on Asset Recovery, appears to show Hunter introducing his Dad to both Rakishev and one Karim Massimov, the former Kazakh Prime Minister.
So who exactly is Rakishev?
In the UK, he is perhaps best known due to a bizarre 2008 episode when he’d helped a fellow oligarch chum called Timur Kulibayev use a firm registered in the British Virgin Islands buy a home from (that man again!) Prince Andrew: his Windsor mansion Sunninghill Park, which oddly went for £15 million, some £3 million over the asking price.
Coverage of the episode had noted that Kulibayev was the son-in-law of the aforementioned despot Nazarbayev, who ruled Kazakhstan for more than two decades, turning it into one of the world’s most corrupt kleptocracies.
Rakishev, for his part, is married to the daughter of a former mayor of the country’s capital city (recently re-named ‘Nursultan,’ after the elderly despot), who later served as its Defence Minister and Deputy Prime Minister. All in all it was an intriguing nexus.
Fast forward to 2012 and Rakishev had just joined Forbes magazine’s top-15 list of Kazakhstan’s ‘most influential’ tycoons, with estimated assets of some $332 million. Like many an oligarch in possession of a huge fortune, Rakishev was now looking for a safe place to park it, so had come to America in search of new places to invest his hard-earned roubles.
Sadly, things hadn’t gone entirely smoothly. For in the highly-regulated world of Western capitalism, Rakishev discovered that blue-chip investment partners were often reluctant to take his cash.
To blame? The fact that no one was entirely sure where his wealth actually came from.