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US: Joe Biden's son Hunter pleads not guilty to tax evasion charges after plea deal collapses

Republicans in the US House of Representatives are pushing for an impeachment inquiry against President Biden by linking him with his son's business dealings. The junior Biden faces upto 17 years in prison if he is convicted of the tax charges.

Edited By: Aveek Banerjee @AveekABanerjee Los Angeles Published on: January 12, 2024 11:13 IST
United states, Hunter Biden, tax evasion charges, Joe Biden
Image Source : AP Hunter Bidenm, the son of US President Joe Biden.

Los Angeles: US President Joe Biden's son Hunter on Thursday pleaded not guilty to tax evasion charges that were filed after a federal judge rejected a plea deal that would have spared him a criminal trial as the country goes for elections in November. The 53-year-old Hunter is accused of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes between 2016 and 2019, while spending millions on drugs, exotic cars, escorts and more, amounting to nine felony and misdemeanour tax offences.

“We’re here today because you’ve been accused by the United States of a criminal offense,” Judge Mark Scarsi told the junior Biden while setting a tentative trial date of June 20 during the hearing. Hunter also stands accused of lying in October 2018 on a federal form for gun purchasers when he swore he wasn’t using or addicted to illegal drugs. He is also accused of possessing the gun illegally and has pleaded not guilty in that case.

Hunter's lawyer Abbe Lowell has said his client had paid his back taxes and is being persecuted because of his famous last name. Republicans in the US House of Representatives are pushing to hold Hunter in contempt of Congress for refusing to testify behind closed doors in their impeachment inquiry of his father. 

Both cases were brought by federal prosecutor David Weiss, who has been investigating him since 2019 and was last year elevated to the status of special prosecutor. Last year, a plea deal collapsed when federal judge Maryellen Noreika, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, raised multiple concerns about the specifics of the deal and her role in the proceedings. Infuriated Republicans claimed that the president's son was getting preferential treatment.

As the 2024 election draws closer, the Justice Department is actively prosecuting both the president’s son and Donald Trump, the Republican front-runner. Trump was indicted on charges of attempting to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential elections and was recently disqualified from the state primary ballots of Colorado and Maine.

Charges against Hunter Biden

Hunter was indicted on nine tax charges in California that include three felonies and six misdemeanours, besides the federal firearms charges in Delaware. In the tax case, prosecutors have said he earned more than $7 million between 2016 and 2019, including $2.3 million from his position on the board of directors of Burisma, a Ukrainian industrial conglomerate. He also served on the board of CEFC China Energy Co Ltd, a Chinese energy conglomerate.

If convicted of the tax charges, Hunter Biden could receive a maximum of 17 years in prison. Following the collapse of the plea deal, Attorney General Merrick Garland appointed a special counsel to handle the matter. 

The criminal investigation led by Delaware US Attorney David Weiss has been open since 2018, and was expected to wind down with the plea deal that Hunter Biden had planned to strike with prosecutors over the summer. He would have pleaded guilty to two misdemeanour tax evasion charges and would have entered a separate agreement on the gun charge. He would have served two years of probation rather than get jail time.

Impeachment inquiry against Biden

The House of Representatives authorised the impeachment inquiry into President Joe Biden last month, with every Republican rallying behind the politically charged process despite lingering concerns among some in the party that the investigation has yet to produce evidence of misconduct by the president.

The 221-212 party-line vote put the entire House Republican conference on record in support of an impeachment process that can lead to the ultimate penalty for a president: punishment for what the Constitution describes as “high crimes and misdemeanours,” which can lead to removal from office if convicted in a Senate trial.

Meanwhile, Congressional Republicans are attempting to link Hunter's business dealings to his father, in their pursuit of an impeachment inquiry against Joe Biden. Republicans claimed that the President was engaged in an influence-peddling scheme with his son. However, no evidence has emerged so far to prove that Biden abused his role or accepted bribes.

Trump has pushed his GOP allies in Congress to move swiftly on impeaching Biden, part of his broader calls for vengeance and retribution against his political enemies. However, some Republicans said the move was an extreme political stunt.

(with inputs from agencies)

ALSO READ | BIG trouble for Biden as US House presses impeachment inquiry into President's role in family business dealing

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