On 20 March, we checked in with a story from the period 2014-2016, when the French bank BNP Paribas was, initially, greenlighted by the Obama administration to do business with Iran, as sanctions were relaxed, and then months later was hit by U.S. government authorities with the biggest settlement forfeiture in banking history for a prior record of sanctions violations (including sanctions on Iran).
In the interim between the first development (January 2014) and the second (June 2014), BNP Paribas flagged – to UK officials – a suspicious transaction by the owner of Burisma, Ukrainian oligarch Mykola Zlochevsky. The date of the notification, March 2014, fell in the period when Vice President Joe Biden was holding frequent phone conversations with top Ukrainian officials as the “Maidan Revolution” crisis expanded. About a month after BNP Paribas alerted the UK to Zlochevsky – who had fled Ukraine in February 2014 – Hunter Biden and Devon Archer joined Burisma’s board, and payments from the company began flowing to them.
The prospective settlement for BNP escalated in this period from $1.1 billion to potentially more than $10 billion, a figure reported at the end of May. In June 2014, the final figure of $8.97 billion was reported.
The story continued into 2015 and 2016. In September 2015, funds from the bank’s settlement with one of the plaintiffs, New York County, were used by then-DA Cyrus Vance, Jr. to launch a non-profit dedicated to cybersecurity. The non-profit, replete with former Obama officials, would go on to cross paths with the investigation of the DNC server intrusion in 2016, and the interrelated “research” effort of Rodney Joffe and experts at Georgia Tech that produced the fictional Alfa Bank-Trump narrative commissioned by the DNC and the Hillary campaign.
It’s a good rule of thumb that following the money always pays off. There are things that can only be fully investigated by government agencies, but for open-source sleuths, following the money often identifies what those things are. Merely pulling the thread on the timing of BNP Paribas’ adventure in the first half of 2014 unearthed a host of otherwise obscure connections.
An interesting event in 2018 turns out to do the same. This one, however, suggests something characteristic and telling about the Trump administration, rather than about Obama’s.
It also involves a bank with a history of settlements for sanctions violation charges. We’ve encountered the bank – HSBC – many times before. HSBC’s distinction, until BNP came along, was having made the previous biggest settlement with the U.S. government in banking history. That settlement was a deferred prosecution agreement in December 2012 for $1.9 billion.
As noted in previous treatments, HSBC went on, under court-ordered supervision, to display a seemingly chronic inability to refrain from abetting sanctions violations and other crimes by its customers. We’ll revisit some informative features of that problem in a moment.
But a BBC report in 2020, based on a leak of U.S. Treasury files, summed it up in describing one of the crimes HSBC failed to halt as follows: “The files show [a Ponzi scheme called WCM777] started soon after the bank was fined $1.9bn (£1.4bn) in the US over money laundering. It had promised to clamp down on these sorts of practices.” The “soon after” was as little as seven months. The formal approval of the December 2012 HSBC settlement was in July 2013 in the Eastern District of New York federal court. Also in July 2013, the first suspicious activity event involving the WCM777 Ponzi scheme took place.
The WCM777 Ponzi scheme was run among Asian- and Latino-Americans in California by a shadowy Chinese national named Ming Xu in 2013 and 2014. It also reached to nations in Central and South America.
As with much of the cash from the various criminal enterprises HSBC seemed to host, Xu’s money flowed through HSBC Hong Kong. BBC: “Analysis by the ICIJ [International Consortium of Investigative Journalists] shows that between 2011 and 2017 HSBC identified suspicious transactions moving through accounts in Hong Kong of more than $1.5bn – about $900m linked to overall criminal activity.”
And although the Xu Ponzi scheme ended tragically, in the murder of one of its dupes in Napa Valley in April 2014, what interests us in this article is the cash flow through Hong Kong.
Enter the Ukrainian oligarch
The U.S. Treasury files are a trove of suspicious activity reports (SARs) leaked from Treasury’s FinCEN monitoring and intelligence arm in 2019 to BuzzFeed and the ICIJ. (They are referred to colloquially as the “FinCEN Files.”) After poring over thousands of files, the ICIJ produced reports beginning in September 2020 on the activity uncovered at major banks, including HSBC.
ICIJ covered the Xu Ponzi scheme in the first HSBC report. But it’s another slice of the $1.5 billion flowing through Hong Kong that relates to our story. That slice involves Ukrainian oligarch Serhiy Kurchenko, for whom a reported alias is “Adrian Matthew Bradley.”
ICIJ’s author, Spencer Woodman, fills us in: “Bradley is a ‘decoy name’ for a Ukrainian oligarch named Serhiy Kurchenko, according to an article published by the Atlantic Council, a Washington-based think tank. Ukrainian prosecutors have accused Kurchenko of amassing millions of dollars via tax evasion and stealing from bank investors. In March 2014, the EU sanctioned him for his alleged links to state corruption. The following year, the U.S. sanctioned Kurchenko.”
According to Woodman, “Bradley’s name appears on records of dozens of shell companies around the world.” And in 2014, “Adrian Matthew Bradley” registered a shell company named Well Fortune HK Ltd. in Hong Kong, and proceeded to run $167 million through its HSBC accounts over the next three years.
Alert readers will recall that Kurchenko was investigated in Ukraine, along with Burisma’s Zlochevsky, for an allegation that they had embezzled funds from Burisma.
The alleged timeframe of the embezzlement was 2014, and the transaction connected with it was Zlochevsky’s attempt to move funds from a banking connection in Cyprus to BNP Paribas in London. That’s the drama outlined in the TOC article on 20 March 2022.
Zlochevsky’s agent made the bid to move his client’s money to London in March 2014. The “Bradley” account for Well Fortune was opened with HSBC in March 2014.
In other words, there’s a reasonable likelihood that the oligarch who allegedly aided Burisma’s owner in his attempt to move funds to an account in London had set up a shell company about the same time in Hong Kong, and was using HSBC to launder money through it. The possibility of a monetary connection between those two threads, though unproven, is obvious.
Note, however, this eye-opening detail of the little Kurchenko/Bradley saga. Recall that in March 2014, BNP Paribas had acted with commendable promptitude in alerting the UK’s Serious Fraud Office (SFO) to the suspicious Zlochevsky event. The bank’s potential settlement figure with U.S. authorities appears to have immediately begun to escalate.
HSBC, by contrast, watched “Adrian Bradley” open a Hong Kong account for Well Fortune in March 2014 and commence shoveling funds through it, and did nothing. It was $167 million and three years later when HSBC finally made a suspicious activity report – in March 2017.
Readers won’t have any difficulty remembering what surprised the world by happening in that interval.
HSBC and its chronic woes
This is a good time to re-up a few additional details from the files. The ICIJ and BBC reports linked in this article are excellent, more recent treatments of HSBC’s rather glaringly evident pattern of continued violations after the history-making settlement with the U.S. government in 2012. But my articles from before the FinCEN Files leak noted the same pattern, mainly from publicly available reports on new investigations, and the public summaries of confidential monitoring reports from the bank’s compliance supervisors.
It’s useful to recall that in its period of reform and probation, HSBC multiplied its compliance division five-fold and brought in former government officials to lead key operations, including compliance. I intend no commentary on the character of any individual person here, but the inescapable reality is that, as subsequent legal actions demonstrated, and the FinCEN Files indicate, their monitoring and coaching failed to halt HSBC’s indictable violations.
Keep that in mind as we navigate toward the significant event of 2018 (which is only a step down the road, so hang in there).
Here is just a brief handful of details on the monitoring environment. One is that in January 2012, prior to the $1.9 billion settlement, a former U.S. Treasury official, Stuart Levey, joined HSBC as its chief legal officer. Levey remained in that post until 2020. One intention of the move was to facilitate the settlement of HSBC’s extensive criminal violations charges.
The settlement eventually came in December. In the interim, however, HSBC’s then-chief of compliance, David Bagley, created a moment of drama by quitting his job in the middle of a U.S. Senate hearing in July 2012.
“David Bagley told senators on Tuesday that HSBC was transforming its compliance function,” reported CNN. “‘I recommended to the group that now is the appropriate time – for me and for the bank – for someone new to serve as the head of group compliance,’ he said.”
CNN noted that Bagley would move to another job in the bank, rather than departing altogether. In the same hearing, Mr. Levey, under questioning from senators, “could not assure lawmakers that HSBC’s numerous affiliates were presently compliant with US rules.
“‘I don’t have knowledge of such a thing,’ Mr Levey said in response to questions.”
After the 2012 settlement, James Comey, then with Bridgewater Associates and a former deputy U.S. attorney general, joined HSBC’s board of directors. Comey’s tenure on the board began on 4 March 2013, with a particular remit as member of the Financial System Vulnerabilities Committee. After President Obama nominated him to be the new FBI director, when Robert Mueller retired, Comey ultimately departed the HSBC board in September 2013 to take up that position.
In July 2013, Michael Cherkasky, a former senior official with the Manhattan DA and the New York County prosecutor’s office, became HSBC’s new chief of compliance. At that point Cherkasky had worked in risk-management consulting in the private sector for 20 years, but had been involved in high-profile, consent-decree monitoring cases like that of the Los Angeles Police Department, for which Cherkasky and Kroll (yes) were selected in 2001 (more here).
Cherkasky seems, interestingly, to be the only person on the planet to have had a career full of publicly noted events and yet not have a Wikipedia entry. Make of that what you will.
At any rate, Cherkasky was CEO of Kroll from 2001 to 2004. Through a subsequent stint with Marsh & McLennan he became the CEO of Altegrity (another risk-management consulting firm), and in that capacity ended up buying out Kroll in 2010, after it had been split off from what became K2. (Parent company Altegrity eventually took bankruptcy in 2015; Kroll rode a roller-coaster afterward with several sales until the buyout in June 2018 by its current owner Duff & Phelps.)
Cherkasky was chairman of BrightLine GRC Ltd., a UK firm he founded in July 2013 (seemingly to hire his services out to HSBC, which is headquartered in London), at the time he became the bank’s compliance chief. A year later, in July 2014, Cherkasky formed Exiger, with offices in New York and London, while continuing in his role with HSBC.
The Wall Street Journal noted at the time that Cherkasky’s “move to start a firm while still working with the U.K.-based bank is unusual.” WSJ suggested the move “underscore[ed] the demand for compliance experts created by the U.S. government’s increased scrutiny of the financial-services industry.”
Perhaps so. Notably, another of Cherkasky’s high-profile professional stints was as a compliance consultant, while president of Kroll, to Delaware-based MBNA, the credit card company, after an MBNA employee alleged in 1997 that the company was funding home improvement projects for senior executives.
Oddly enough, as many readers will be aware, that was the period in which Hunter Biden was working for MBNA in a $100,000 job just out of law school, following a transaction in which then-Senator Joe Biden sold his home to a senior MBNA executive for a nice profit.
The New York Times noted only the company’s hiring of Hunter Biden, but Byron York had picked up on the home-sale detail in a 1998 article for The American Spectator (re-posted at National Review Online in 2008). And Miranda Devine recounted it most recently in her 2021 book on the Bidens, Laptop from Hell. Devine emphasized that (as mentioned in the NYT article from 2004), the lobbying firm Hunter Biden joined after leaving MBNA – Oldaker, Biden & Belair – remained on retainer to MBNA in the mid-2000s. In the same period, Joe Biden was pondering legislation that was advocated by MBNA and would directly affect the company. MBNA was bought out by Bank of America in 2006.
The likelihood is strong that when Cherkasky and Kroll were looking into the allegations about MBNA in the late 1990s, Cherkasky was aware of Hunter’s employment with the financial firm. Few in Delaware could have confused about why Hunter got the job.
Rounding out Cherkasky’s resume, the 2014 WSJ article on his founding of Exiger fills in a blank for the period 2011-2013, when Cherkasky had left Altegrity (2011) but had not yet assumed his role with HSBC. WSJ explains: “Mr. Cherkasky was brought into HSBC after a stint leading a New York state commission responsible for ethics oversight of state employees.”
As mentioned in a number of articles, Michael Cherkasky had at one time been Eliot Spitzer’s boss in the Manhattan DA’s office, and the two remain friends.
The 2014 WSJ article also points out that during that period (1980s to early 1990s), Cherkasky was involved as a prosecutor in the infamous case of the Bank of Credit & Commerce International (BCCI), the bank tied in numerous ways to Bill and Hillary Clinton, including through Bert Lance and Marc Rich. (Recall that a U.S. Senate report on the BCCI case lamented what it regarded as the poor job done on it by federal investigators.)
There’s something of a sense that Cherkasky may have had to pass muster with the senior ranks of the Democratic establishment to get the HSBC gig. That’s not a throw-away observation; the promised 2018 event will reinforce it.
Meanwhile, as regards the Kroll angle, Cherkasky left Altegrity in 2011, after it bought Kroll in 2010. It was later, in September 2013, that Kroll’s UK branch performed a due-diligence investigation of Mykola Zlochevsky, owner of Burisma, for BNP Paribas when Zlochevsky opened his account with the bank in London. (See my 20 March article linked at the top.)
Throughout this period – the period the ICIJ bookends as 2012 to 2017 – HSBC just kept barking its shins on the same criminal-banking potholes.
Perhaps it’s no surprise that U.S. government agencies and HSBC have strenuously opposed all FOIA and congressional requests to make the compliance monitoring reports on HSBC public (see the ICIJ report by Spencer Woodman, and WSJ here).
And now, 2018
Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise. That said, practically no one paid attention – in the media, at least – to this next pair of events. We’ll take them in reverse order.
In June 2018, Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein and Sherrod Brown expressed alarm, even indignation, that the Trump Justice Department had changed the basis of compliance monitoring for HSBC. They wrote a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions on 29 June asking him to “explain why the Justice Department allowed a five-year, $1.9 billion deferred prosecution agreement with HSBC Holdings plc to expire last December while another deferred prosecution agreement was being put in place.”
In light of all we know about the violation-ridden compliance years for the 2012 DPA, I have to say that losing the infrastructure and expectations for that agreement is the first thing I would seriously consider to turn the HSBC ship about. My assessment would be that that’s what the Trump DOJ did.
It in fact let the 2012 DPA expire, as scheduled, on 11 December 2017. Under Jeff Sessions, the DOJ also did something the Obama DOJ hadn’t: it actually prosecuted an HSBC executive for financial crimes. In October 2017, DOJ obtained a judgment on HSBC’s former head of foreign exchange, Mark Johnson, for so-called “front-running”; that is, trading in currency ahead of a client’s previewed transaction, to manipulate the exchange rate and skim profit.
The Obama administration had initially arrested Johnson in July 2016. It’s possible, of course, to assume the Obama DOJ meant, uncharacteristically, to prosecute and secure a criminal conviction for Mr. Johnson.
It’s also possible to recognize that the 2012 HSBC DPA was set to expire in December 2017, and having an HSBC executive under threat of criminal prosecution would be useful leverage for extending it. If senior Democrats were taking an interest in the HSBC DPA, as seems likely (especially given the “more” we’ll see below), the assumption that Hillary Clinton would be the next president would have factored into that calculation.
But she wasn’t. After letting the 2012 DPA expire, the Trump DOJ entered into a new DPA with HSBC in January 2018, which included a $100 million settlement. That’s the other event in this section; the one preceding the Feinstein-Brown letter in June 2018. The January 2018 DPA came with monitoring arranged by the Trump administration.
With the new DPA in place, Michael Cherkasky left HSBC in June 2018. There was very little fanfare about the new DPA, however. I haven’t located a DOJ announcement page for it, and given the reaction from Feinstein and Brown, it appears they may have been surprised by it.
Recall, from our story so far, that HSBC had waited until March 2017 to drop a suspicious activity alert on client “Adrian Bradley” (Serhiy Kurchenko) and his $167 million in apparently laundered funds since 2014.
Now consider what else began happening after the Trump administration took over.
In June 2017, the Ukrainian prosecutor general sent Serhiy Kurchenko a “notice of suspicion” informing him he was under investigation for potential crimes committed from 2010 to 2014. The crimes included abetting alleged embezzlement by Burisma owner Mykola Zlochevsky.
After the 2012 DPA for HSBC expired, and the Trump DOJ implemented a new one in January 2018, victims of the WCM777 Ponzi scheme brought suit in federal court in March 2018. These are people who lost their life savings to a cruel, cynical scam. It’s probable that they brought suit as soon as they had enough knowledge of the criminal enterprise to do so. They very likely didn’t have it until early 2018 (although California had begun investigating the scheme somewhat earlier).
Feinstein and Brown sent their letter to Jeff Sessions on 29 June 2018. And a month later, in late July 2018, Politico broke the story that a Chinese spy had been a staff member for Feinstein for years (see here for more).
A window to Chinese and other foreign connections
Public perceptions of Feinstein shifted almost overnight when this news burst forth. Specialists might have been attuned previously to the extensive Chinese business dealings of Feinstein’s husband Richard Blum. But it suddenly stood out in strong relief that, for example, Blum’s 2004 acquisition of controlling interest in China’s Shenzhen Development Bank, through his investment firm Newbridge Capital, was a very significant event.
Blum’s dealings with China had flown under the radar for years. But with the news of the Chinese spy (a driver, and staffer in her San Francsico office), journalists like Lee Smith took an interest and started digging. In his article in Tablet in 2020, Smith, the author of The Plot Against the President and The Permanent Coup, pointed out among other things that Newbridge’s investment in Shenzhen Development Bank marked “the first time a Chinese bank came under control of a foreign entity.”
It could hardly be insignificant that such a watershed event involved the husband of a U.S. senator.
Smith went on to outline an extensive history of Feinstein’s Chinese connections, stretching back to her days as mayor of San Francisco in the late 1970s and early 1980s.
At present there are no affirmative indications that the bank records of HSBC, per se, would yield special insight into her or her husband’s dealings with China. They are likely to, of course. Although HSBC’s headquarters moved to the UK decades ago, the bank’s activities are still very much embedded in Hong Kong, and intrinsically significant to China.
But there’s another long-time fixture of American politics with well-known links to HSBC, and that’s Bill and Hillary Clinton. The 2016 “Panama Papers” leak of HSBC files, by a still-anonymous whistleblower via a connection running through Panama, yielded a massive trove of information on the Clintons’ use of shell companies and HSBC accounts to move money around.
Besides thousands of transactions involving entities known to be linked to the Clintons, unearthed in a deep dive by World Net Daily (WND), WND also reported (link above) that “On Feb. 10, 2015, the London Guardian reported $81 million from seven wealthy international donors flowed to the Clinton Foundation through controversial Swiss tax-free HSBC accounts maintained in Geneva, as revealed by leaked HSBC files obtained by French newspaper Le Monde.”
The mainstream media gave this reporting short shrift; not surprising, considering it came out in 2016, about six months before the presidential election.
The mainstream media have also given short shrift to an HSBC connection to Hunter Biden – one that emerged after Trump had taken office, and probably explains a lot.
The Biden of the hour
Hunter Biden’s visible financial activities have not noticeably intertwined with HSBC, as far as they can be discerned. But it’s clear just from the Kurchenko-Zlochevsky angle that if HSBC records were fully investigated, they’d probably shed useful light on Hunter’s business links.
There’s another angle, however, and it’s one that involves China. The salient events also occurred after Trump took office. Republican Senators Chuck Grassley and Ron Johnson published much of this story in their findings report and supplement of, respectively, September 2020 and November 2020. Open source analysts have had this information to digest for some time, but just this week, the Washington Post finally acknowledged it and published articles on it on Wednesday 30 March 2022.
There is far too much in the senators’ report to go into all of it. It’s important to note that their information shows relations between Hunter Biden and the Chinese contacts we’ll mention here “ramping up” by 2015. The links go back at least that far.
But it’s 2017 that interests us, because that’s when the orientation of the U.S. government to HSBC was changing. And that’s when the key financial transactions between Hunter Biden and the Chinese contacts in question were concluded.
The contacts were Patrick Ho, Ye Jianming, and Gongwen Dong, each connected to the Chinese political and/or military leadership. (Note: I am going with the conventional expression of each man’s name in Western media, although that makes for a somewhat humorous mishmash. For consistency and alignment with Chinese practice, Mr. Dong’s name would be given as Dong Gongwen. The converse is the case for Mr. Ye; i.e., Jianming Ye. My ear hears the attempt at consistency as pedantic and confusing, however, so media convention wins the day.)
I’ll let you read the reports to glean the entire story, which involves much more than the financial transactions. Suffice it for this particular aspect of the tale to note that Ye Jianming was the “founder of CEFC China Energy Co. Ltd (CEFC) and chairman of the board for its subsidiary, the China Energy Fund Committee (CE Fund).”
Patrick Ho (AKA He Zhiping) was the secretary-general of the CE Fund, of whose board Ye Jianming was the chairman. Ho was also a sometime public official in Hong Kong.
And Gongwen Dong was a business associate of Hunter Biden’s who famously set up a joint bank account with Hunter, depositing $100,000 to facilitate a luxury shopping spree.
The short story is that Patrick Ho came under investigation by U.S. authorities in 2017 for suspect dealings (i.e., bribery) with entities in Chad and Uganda – dealings involving transactions through HSBC, with funds passing through the United States (the hook for a U.S. prosecution). Ye Jianming was implicated in the same scheme, and HSBC transactions were a key element in the case.
Completing circles means following these tales through to the end.
Washington Post’s summary: “In the summer of 2017, Hunter Biden received a request from Ye that would foreshadow subsequent problems for CEFC. Ye said that a top CEFC associate, Patrick Ho, might be under investigation by U.S. law enforcement and he asked Hunter Biden for help.”
This exchange resulted in Hunter being put on retainer for Ho’s legal needs, and a larger deal being struck in August 2017 for consulting with Ye Jianming and CEFC. It was the latter deal that was greased with the shopping spree set up by Gongwen Dong. In all, the Chinese burned several million on these arrangements with Hunter – none of which yielded productive results (although that would be a matter of opinion as regards the shopping spree).
U.S. authorities arrested Patrick Ho in November 2017, and by the spring of 2018 his prosecution for bribery related to a CEFC interest in oil rights in Africa was underway. WaPo points out that, given this adverse turn of events, Hunter Biden’s relations with Ye Jianming soured (a new attorney was hired for Ho as soon as he was arrested), and in any case, Ye was “detained in China in mid-February 2018 and hadn’t been heard from since.” An unseemly scramble by James and Hunter Biden to obtain the full contracted amount of Hunter’s retainers with CEFC ensued.
In December 2018 Ho was convicted on seven counts of bribery and money-laundering. During the trial, Ho argued that, basically, it wasn’t his fault that HSBC routed his bribery payments through U.S. banks on their way to destinations in Dubai and Uganda. Therefore, he really couldn’t be charged with violating U.S. law, as he had no control over the manner in which HSBC transmitted his bribes.
But the point that brings this home is that, under the Trump administration, suspicious activity detected by HSBC was not only flagged but acted on – by the U.S. government – and resulted in the prosecution and conviction of a Chinese client of Hunter Biden. We aren’t privy to what was going on back in China, but it’s a good bet the disappearance of Ye Jianming in March 2018, and his subsequent reported detention on charges of bribery, were connected to the prosecution of Patrick Ho. Not just the Bidens but China took hits here.
In that glare of that spotlight, the concern of Dianne Feinstein about the Trump administration implementing a new DPA with HSBC takes on a different hue. So does the urgency about protecting the Biden influence enterprises, which appeared to gather steam significantly from 2018 to mid-2019, the period just before the “impeachment” effort was launched against Trump.
If Hillary Clinton had become president, we may justly ask whether any of this would have come to light. It’s quite possible that the curiously consequence-deficient 2012 DPA with HSBC would simply have been extended, and the criminal transactions remained on track, unreacted to by law enforcement. The Clintons and their associates got an awful lot of business done through HSBC, if the leaked HSBC files in the Panama Papers are an indication.
Senior Democrats like Joe Biden and Dianne Feinstein had their own reasons to prefer that a new broom like Trump not show up to take vigorous swipes at HSBC. The bank lurked on the edge of both of their histories, holding demonstrated keys to the activities of Hunter Biden with both China and Ukraine – and ever-present in financial dealings through Hong Kong like those of Richard Blum.
If Trump’s administration removed the protective layer of silence clamped over this most convenient of banks and its “monitored” dealings, there was no telling what would come out. Trump’s DOJ may have been getting too close for comfort by 2019. It’s noteworthy, in one of our Gregorian calendar capers, that 28 March 2019 is when Ukraine’s prosecutor general announced charges against Serhiy Kurchenko at the conclusion of the investigation that started in 2018.
The UK investigation of Mykola Zlochevsky had been dropped several years earlier, but given the suspected collaboration between the two, it was quite possible that a full-blown trial of Kurchenko might expose inconvenient facts about Burisma’s owner, and Burisma itself. Within weeks of Prosecutor Yuriy Lutsenko’s announcement (which occurred within the same date-range we have noted before, in which the Mueller investigation ended, Volodymyr Zelensky took a commanding lead in Ukraine’s first round of the 2019 presidential election, Nursultan Nazarbayev abruptly resigned as president of Kazakhstan, and Felix Sater’s Kazakh clients brought a lawsuit against him), Rudy Giuliani was announcing information from Ukraine on the Bidens’ complicity in some of the crimes involved Burisma there.
These developments, in hindsight, comport quite informatively with the Brexit break-up events I reported back in 2019. By August of that year, HSBC’s UK headquarters was moving the compliance division to France as part of its new Brexit arrangements, apparently a signal that the bank (or someone) preferred that a closer UK-U.S. partnership, then being previewed as a post-Brexit condition, not be the locus of compliance monitoring for the bank.
Whoever was behind the compliance division move clearly wanted it to be safely inside the EU, where a push for too much gritty integrity from, say, the United States could be overridden.
On 18 March, Daniel Greenfield predicted in his FrontPage column that the sudden willingness of mainstream media outlets (namely, the New York Times) to give headline space to news about Hunter Biden is probably a campaign to obliquely explain, by implication and ellipsis, why Hunter won’t ultimately have to face any reckoning. He’s probably right. We wouldn’t know about much of what Grassley and Johnson were able to put in their 2020 report if Donald Trump hadn’t been president for four years.
The Biden administration – see its name – will have the priority not of bringing any Bidens to justice, but of minimizing the damage done to senior Washingtonians’ financial environment by the upstart, unclubbable Trump.
Follow the money.
Coda: in May 2021, the Wall Street Journal reported that HSBC planned to sell off virtually all of its retail banking interests in the U.S. The bank will retain only clients with accounts that maintain balances of $75,000 or higher. The projected completion date for shifting other customers’ accounts to new servicing banks is 31 March 2022, the end of the first quarter of calendar year 2022; i.e., today.
Feature image: Trump, Destroyer of Worlds.