Scrutiny of business deals by former Vice President Joseph R. Biden’s son Hunter now includes his joint venture with a Chinese government entity to buy a U.S. automotive technology company with potential military applications.
The ease with which the 2015 transaction was approved by the Obama administration alarmed Senate Finance Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, who is looking into whether the Obama-Biden White House intervened in the process.
One of the companies in the 2015 deal was Bohai Harvest RST (BHR), a billion-dollar investment fund backed by China that was formed by Hunter Biden and Chris Heinz, the stepson of then-Secretary of State John Kerry.
The state government’s Aviation Industry Corporation of China teamed with BHR to buy Henniges Automotive, a producer of high-tech, anti-vibration components for automobiles.
“The direct involvement of Mr. Hunter Biden and Mr. Heinz in the acquisition of Henniges by the Chinese government creates a potential conflict of interest,” Mr. Grassley wrote in an Aug. 15 letter to Treasury Secretary Steven T. Mnuchin.
Mr. Grassley, Iowa Republican, requested Mr. Mnuchin provide committee investigators with documents from the approval process, including a copy of the National Threat Assessment required for the deal.
The purchase of Henniges by the Chinese needed approval from the Obama administration’s Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) that included a go-ahead from Mr. Kerry’s State Department.
The $600 million acquisition of Henniges gave the Chinese aviation firm a 51% stake in the business and direct control of the anti-vibration technology. BHR got a 49% share of the business.
“The appearance of potential conflicts in this case is particularly troubling given Mr. Biden’s and Mr. Heinz’s history of investing in and collaborating with Chinese companies, including at least one posing significant national security concerns,” Mr. Grassley wrote.
He balked that CFIUS approved the transaction despite reports that in 2007, the same Chinese aviation company was reportedly involved in stealing sensitive data about the U.S. Defense Department’s Joint Strike Fighter program.
China reportedly incorporated the stolen data into its J-20 and J-31 stealth fighter aircraft.
Hunter Biden’s freewheeling business ventures at home and abroad are becoming a headache for his father’s campaign for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination.
The younger Mr. Biden, a Yale-educated lawyer who has been in the tabloids more for his drug use and romantic escapades than for his business savvy, has made a fortune in a series of deals that often appear greased by his father’s political clout.
In 2013, the elder Mr. Biden and his son flew aboard Air Force Two to Beijing. Within weeks, Hunter Biden’s firm inked a $1 billion private equity deal with a subsidiary of the Chinese government’s Bank of China and BHR was born, according to Peter Schweizer’s book “Secret Empires.”
Hunter Biden and Mr. Heinz’s investment firm Rosemont Seneca, formed in 2009 when the elder Mr. Biden was sworn in as vice president, was at the center of a series of multibillion-dollar deals with companies owned by the Chinese government. They also enlisted the Massachusetts-based consulting firm Thornton Group run by James Bulger, nephew of notorious mob hitman James “Whitey” Bulger, Mr. Schweizer revealed.
Hunter Biden’s business lucky streak spanned the globe.
His high-paying post on the board of a Ukraine natural gas company — a job he fell into in 2014 when his vice president dad was spearheading the Obama White House’s efforts in the country — also is at the center of House Democrats’ reinvigorated effort to impeach President Trump.
A U.S. intelligence community whistleblower accused Mr. Trump of abusing his Oval Office power by asking the Ukrainian president to investigate corruption by Mr. Biden and his son there.
Mr. Trump has insisted that the corruption is from Mr. Biden, who is a top contender for the Democratic nomination.
In 2016, Mr. Biden as the vice president visited Kyiv and threatened to withhold $1 billion in U.S. loan guarantees unless the country’s leaders fired Ukraine’s chief prosecutor.
He said the prosecutor failed to fight corruption. But the prosecutor also was investigating Ukraine gas company Burisma Holdings, where Hunter Biden had a $50,000-a-month job on the board.
The elder Mr. Biden said his actions had nothing to do with his son and the two of them never discussed business deals.
“There’s nothing anybody in my family did wrong — at all,” Mr. Biden said.