While the Trump administration continues to stumble from one tragic error to another, much of the world’s media attention is focussed on the threat of a Trump impeachment centred on one phone call to the President of Ukraine. However, what might appear at first sight to be a desperate attempt by the beleaguered President to discredit his Democratic opponent at any cost may well be factually well-founded, albeit if Hunter Biden has been an unwitting accessory in a sad story of smoke and mirrors.

While the story plays out in Washington, there is a growing body of evidence that a key player in the drama has used Monaco to whitewash his name and re-establish himself as a legitimate business figure on the international stage. The owner of Burisma Holdings – the company that paid Hunter Biden between $50,000 and $166,000 a month to sit on its board, according to which source you believe – is Mykola Zlochevsky, Minister for Ecology and Natural Resources during the presidency of Viktor Yanukovych, the pro-Russian leader of Ukraine before the Maidan revolution of 2014. One of Zlochevsky’s responsibilities was to issue oil and gas licences.

Facing charges of fraud and money laundering, Zlochevsky fled the country at the same time as Yanukovych, while Biden jnr. continued to serve on Burisma’s board until early in 2019.  President Donald Trump’s attorney Rudy Giuliani has said in a Twitter post that Biden’s son earned millions, being on the council of one of Ukraine’s most corrupt companies. He also implied that the company had laundered $3 million, transferring the money from Ukraine to Latvia, then to Cyprus and the US.

Three years after Hunter Biden joined the board, Cofer Black, a former CIA official and foreign policy adviser to Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign, was also appointed. “I believe the only reason Burisma and Zlochevsky were inviting people with such names was to whitewash their reputation and to present themselves as a company doing legitimate business in Ukraine,” said Daria Kaleniuk, head of the non-governmental Ant-Corruption Action centre in Kyiv.

Meanwhile, Burisma Holdings, founded in 2002 by Zlochevsky, claims to be one of the largest natural gas companies in Ukraine, although there is little evidence of actual production.

On Friday, October 4, Ruslan Ryaboshapka, Ukraine’s newly appointed chief prosecutor, told reporters his office will review all investigations shelved by his predecessors, including those involving Burisma and Zlochevsky, although these probes were into activities before Hunter Biden joined the board in 2014. The result of these reopened enquiries is unlikely to be flattering to Zlochevsky, who has been very active in Monaco over the last four years in an attempt to improve his image.
In his boldest move to rehabilitate his name, Zlochevsky founded the Energy Security Forum in Monaco in 2016.

It is now an annual event that has attracted top officials and experts from western countries. HSH Prince Albert spoke at the second Forum, and other attendees have included Aleksander Kwasniecki, a former president of Poland who has also served as a Burisma board member. In 2018 then Latvian president Raimonds Vejonis spoke at the Forum.

On its website, in imperfect English, under the title ‘About Forum’: “Over the course of only three years, the Forum has grown to become a major international event and a must attend for U.S. and European politicians and opinion makers.” The fifth Forum is due to take place – in Monaco – on June 1, 2020.

Meanwhile, the whereabouts of Zlochevsky are unknown and ownership of Burisma has reportedly passed to Privat Group – which Zlochevsky also founded – a conglomerate now controlled by Ukrainian oligarch Ihor Kolomoisky, who has also been tied to the election campaign of the recipient of that famous telephone call, President Volodymyr Zelensky.

ORIGINAL SOURCES: Kyiv Post, New York Times, NPR, nakedcapitalism.com, Daily Mail, LETA, Wall Street Journal, The Baltic Course, Radio Free Europe and others  PHOTO: Mykola Zlochevsky

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