October 3, 2019 / 10:32 PM / a month ago

Explainer: Trump's claims and Hunter Biden's dealings in China

(Reuters) - U.S. President Donald Trump on Thursday called on China to investigate Joe Biden, a leading Democratic contender in the 2020 race for the White House, about the involvement of Biden’s son in a fund that sought to raise Chinese capital.

Trump accuses the younger Biden of using his position of influence to secure the financial backing of China for his investments. He has not provided evidence to support this claim and Hunter Biden has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.

Here are some details about Trump’s allegations:

ON WHAT BASIS IS TRUMP CALLING FOR A PROBE OF HUNTER BIDEN?

Trump has alleged that Hunter Biden got China to invest $1.5 billion in a fund he was involved in soon after accompanying his father on a trip to Beijing in December 2013, when Joe Biden was still vice president.

“When Biden’s son walks out of China with $1.5 billion in a fund, and the biggest funds in the world can’t get money out of China, and he’s there for one quick meeting and he flies in on Air Force Two, I think that’s a horrible thing,” Trump said last month.

Trump’s critics say the president is trying to divert attention from the impeachment inquiry being pursued by Democratic lawmakers.

“Now, with his administration in free-fall, Donald Trump is flailing and melting down on national television, desperately clutching for conspiracy theories that have been debunked and dismissed by independent, credible news organizations,” Biden’s campaign said in a statement on Thursday.

WHAT ARE HUNTER BIDEN’S INVESTMENTS?

In 2009 Hunter Biden co-founded Rosemont Seneca Partners, along with Christopher Heinz, stepson of former Secretary of State John Kerry, and Devon Archer, an American businessman who had been Heinz’s classmate at Yale University.

In 2012 the younger Biden and Archer talked with Chinese private equity investor Jonathan Li about joining forces on a fund that would invest Chinese capital - and possibly capital from other countries - outside of China, the New Yorker magazine reported in a profile of Hunter Biden in July.

In 2013, Li, Archer and others agreed to establish the fund, called BHR Partners, and Hunter Biden joined as an unpaid member of the board, the New Yorker said.

Hunter Biden told the New Yorker that he met with Li during the December 2013 trip but described it as a social meeting. “How do I go to Beijing, halfway around the world, and not see them see (Li) for a cup of coffee?” he said.

George Mesires, a lawyer for Hunter Biden, has said his client started out on the advisory board for BHR and only became an investor in the fund with a 10 percent stake in 2017, when his father was no longer vice president.

Mesires has said Hunter Biden’s investment in the fund was $420,000, implying a total capitalization for the fund of $4.2 million.

Neither Hunter Biden or Mesires could be reached for comment on Thursday.

WHERE DID THE $1.5 BILLION FIGURE COME FROM?

According to its website, BHR Partners is the cross-border investment arm of a state-approved Chinese private equity firm and is supported by some of China’s largest financial institutions, including the Bank of China.

An archived version of BHR’s website from 2014 says BHR was formed in 2013 by two Chinese asset managers alongside Rosemont Seneca Partners and Thornton Group LLC.

The $1.5 billion figure cited by Trump may come from conservative author Peter Schweizer’s 2018 book “Secret Empires: How the American Political Class Hides Corruption and Enriches Family and Friends.”

Schweizer’s book referenced a July 2014 Wall Street Journal article that said the BHR consortium was aiming to raise $1.5 billion to invest outside China, citing a spokesman for Bank of China.

The New Yorker reported in its July article that Hunter Biden and his business partners said they had yet to receive a payment from BHR.

BHR did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Reporting by Nathan Layne in New York, Editing by Rosalba O'Brien

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