By: Priyam Nayak
September 25 2020
Joe Biden's efforts at removing Viktor Shokin was a part of internationally co-ordinated efforts towards curbing corruption in Ukraine.
Joe Biden's efforts at removing Viktor Shokin was a part of internationally co-ordinated efforts towards curbing corruption in Ukraine. In July 2019, it had been reported that President Donald Trump had pressured Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation into the Bidens based on Hunter Biden's involvement with a Ukraine-based gas company. Trump and his attorney Rudy Giuliani had pushed claims that as vice president, Biden pressured then-Ukraine president Petro Poroshenko to sack Ukrainian prosecutor general Viktor Shokin in return for $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees. Burisma, founded by Mykola Zlochevsky in 2002 in Ukraine, started gas production in 2006 and holds 35 licenses for hydrocarbon production in Ukraine's leading oil and gas basins. Zlochevsky headed Ukraine's Ministry of Environmental Protection from June 2010 to April 2012 and was a member of the Party of Regions of ex-president Viktor Yanukovych. In 2012-2014, Zlochevsky worked as a deputy secretary of Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council, which is in charge of all military and law-enforcement structures in Ukraine, states Reuters. Yanukovych had been ousted from Ukraine's presidency following violent protests against his regime's corruption in 2014. According to a Reuters report, Burisma's website says the company's board engaged Hunter Biden in 2013 with former Polish President Alexander Kwasniewski. 'As a new member of the board, I believe that my assistance in consulting the company on transparency, corporate governance and responsibility, international expansion and other priorities will contribute to the economy and benefit the people of Ukraine.' In April 2019, Hunter Biden's term as a Burisma board member expired, and he left the company. Ukrainian prosecutors opened a criminal investigation into Burisma in 2014, looking into suspected tax violations. It was also the year when Petro Poroshenko was elected President of Ukraine. The New York Times reported that within months of Poroshenko's election, the United States' State Department began suspecting that the office of Poroshenko's first prosecutor general had been accepting bribes to protect Mykola Zlochevsky, the owner of Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden was a board member. The prosecutor general had been fired, and Viktor Shokin had been appointed the new prosecutor. Soon after, State Department officials started suspecting that Shokin was allegedly exploiting targets and slow-walking investigations to protect allies. By late 2015, American officials had grown so frustrated with Mr. Poroshenko's sluggish response on all fronts that Joe Biden had been dispatched to make the case publicly for reforms to the Ukrainian Parliament, NYT stated. Shokin had been fired months later after IMF officials threatened to withdraw funding to Ukraine. In 2019, Rudy Giuliani claimed, without evidence, that Mr. Biden's push to oust Mr. Shokin was an attempt to block scrutiny of his son's actions. The Washington Post reports that Biden's efforts at terminating Shokin were not a unilateral action directed by Biden. It had been prompted by a push for anti-corruption reforms developed at the State Department and coordinated with the European Union and the International Monetary Fund. The Financial Times stated that 'EU diplomats working in Ukraine at the time were looking for ways to persuade Kiev to remove Mr. Shokin well before Mr. Biden entered the picture. The push for Mr. Shokin's removal was part of an international effort to bolster Ukraine's institutions following Russia's annexation of Crimea and the armed conflict in the eastern part of the country.' A report published by NYT wrote, 'Christine Lagarde, the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, which props up Ukraine financially, said that progress was so slow in fighting corruption that 'it's hard to see how the I.M.F-supported program can continue.' On June 15, 2020, the Washington Post reported that former Ukraine prosecutor general Ruslan Ryaboshapka audited the many outstanding case files looking into Burisma and said he found no evidence of wrongdoing by the Bidens. According to Reuters, in 2016, a Kiev district court said it had found no evidence of criminal wrongdoing by Burisma president and owner Zlochevsky and ordered the Prosecutor General's Office to remove him from the authorities' wanted list. In 2017, Burisma said all investigations against the company and Zlochevsky had been closed after the company paid an additional 180 million hryvnias ($7.44 million) in taxes, Reuters reported.