Former Ukraine prosecutor says Hunter Biden ‘did not violate anything’
KIEV, Ukraine — A former top Ukrainian prosecutor, whose allegations were at the heart of the dirt-digging effort by Rudolph W. Giuliani, said Thursday he believed that Hunter Biden did not run afoul of any laws in Ukraine.
“From the perspective of Ukrainian legislation, he did not violate anything,” former Ukrainian prosecutor general Yuri Lutsenko told The Washington Post in his first interview since the disclosure of a whistleblower complaint alleging pressure by President Trump on Ukraine’s president, Volodymr Zelensky.
Lutsenko’s comments about Hunter Biden — which echo what he told Bloomberg News in May — were significant, because Trump and his personal attorney Giuliani have sought to stir up suspicions about both Hunter and former vice president Joe Biden’s conduct in Ukraine in recent weeks. Joe Biden is leading Trump in many opinion polls ahead of the 2020 election.
Hunter Biden has denied any wrongdoing, and there is no evidence he was involved in any lawbreaking in his work in Ukraine with the country’s largest private gas company.
Lutsenko has been an elusive figure in recent weeks since stepping down from office in late August, but his conversations with Giuliani figure highly in both Giuliani’s own allegations about corruption in Ukraine and in the whistleblower complaint that was declassified Thursday.
“There’s a lot of talk about Biden’s son,” Trump told Zelensky in a July 25 phone call, a rough transcript of which was released Wednesday.
According to the complaint, Trump in the call “praised Ukraine’s Prosecutor General, Mr. Yuriy Lutsenko, and suggested that Mr. Zelenskyy might want to keep him in his position.”
The rough transcript of the call released Wednesday by the White House did not mention a prosecutor general by name, and it was unclear from the transcript which official Trump was referring to.
Trump went on to tell Zelensky to be in touch with Giuliani and Attorney General William P. Barr and suggested that U.S. investigators could assist the Ukrainians to look into any wrongdoing.
But Lutsenko said he was not aware of any U.S. law enforcement officials coming to Ukraine to assist in any such probes while he was in office.
“No American groups came to Ukraine for an investigation” during Lutsenko’s tenure from May 2016 until late August.
Giuliani has alleged that Hunter Biden was involved in corruption during his nearly five years on the board of Burisma, the Ukrainian gas company.
Giuliani has not offered any evidence. Burisma’s owner came under scrutiny by Lutsenko’s predecessors for possible abuse of power and unlawful enrichment, but Hunter Biden was never accused of any wrongdoing in the investigation.
As vice president, Joe Biden pressured Ukraine to fire Lutsenko’s predecessor, Viktor Shokin, who Biden and other Western officials said was not sufficiently pursuing corruption cases. At the time, the investigation into Burisma was dormant, according to former Ukrainian and U.S. officials.
“Hunter Biden cannot be responsible for violations of the management of Burisma that took place two years before his arrival,” Lutsenko said.
Lutsenko had earlier cast doubt on Hunter Biden’s actions in Ukraine, an effort that drew Giuliani’s notice last year. Lutsenko said that Giuliani tried to arrange a meeting with him two times before they finally managed to connect on the third try in January,
“I took a vacation. I took my youngest son, I showed him New York and I met with Mr. Giuliani,” Lutsenko said. “I had a long conversation with him. But this was only in the forum of exchanging information.”
Lutsenko met with Giuliani again in Warsaw in mid-February, then for a third and final time “in Europe,” he said, refusing to be more specific.
Lutsenko did not fully explain the change of heart in May when he gave an interview to Bloomberg in which he said he believed Hunter Biden had not broken any Ukrainian laws.
But Lutsenko said that if U.S. authorities were separately interested in Hunter Biden’s financial arrangements in Ukraine, Ukrainian law enforcement officials would be happy to comply.
Trump and Giuliani have also alleged that Ukrainian officials intervened in the 2016 election to favor Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton. Their complaints were fueled in part by Lutsenko’s own publicly alleged concerns, which he said he passed along in person to Giuliani over the course of three meetings.
“If we talk about Ukrainian collusion, I think that there were signs of this type of interference,” Lutsenko said, pointing to the appearance in August 2016 of a mysterious black ledger that appeared to detail secret Ukrainian government payments to Paul Manafort for his work as a consultant to former Ukrainian president Viktor Yanukovych. The release of the ledger that month quickly forced Manafort to step down as Trump’s campaign chairman.
Ukrainian officials have denied any effort to help Clinton in the 2016 election.
Lutsenko had declined repeated requests for an interview in recent days. But on Thursday, a Kiev-based reporter saw Lutsenko in the lobby of a popular hotel in central Kiev. He entered the Premier Cigar Lounge of the hotel and had lunch. After he finished eating, reporters approached him, and although he said he had no time to talk, he kept answering questions for more than half an hour.
Lutsenko said that he planned to leave later Thursday for Britain, where he was going to spend a month studying English.