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Hunter Biden indicted on tax crimes by special counsel

Hunter Biden indicted on federal tax charges
Hunter Biden indicted on federal tax charges 05:29

Washington — Hunter Biden, President Biden's son, has been charged with nine counts of tax crimes, according to a federal indictment unsealed Thursday in the Central District of California. 

The indictment charges him with failure to file and pay taxes, evasion of assessment and filing a false or fraudulent tax return. Instead of paying the taxes, the indictment alleges he spent that income on a litany of personal items ranging from a Lamborghini rental to luxury hotels and escort services. Many of these purchases, the government says, were classified by Hunter Biden as business expenses.

Federal prosecutors allege that Hunter Biden engaged in "a four-year scheme to not pay at least $1.4 million" in federal income taxes for the years 2016 through 2019. During these years, from 2016 through Oct. 15, 2020, Hunter Biden made over $7 million in total gross income, according to the indictment. 

The indictment references a range of business relationships that brought him income that the government alleges provided him with sufficient means to pay taxes. That includes a $1 million payment from a Chinese businessman who had been indicted in the U.S.

The charging document also includes references to years of drug abuse and debauchery described in Hunter Biden's own memoir, citing the lavish spending as evidence that he had funds to pay taxes, but chose to spend his income on his lifestyle. And in many respects, the new raft of charges matches up with allegations leveled last summer by two IRS whistleblowers who came forward after an initial round of tax charges in Delaware, in their estimation, fell well short of charges that could have been leveled.

The special counsel alleges that once Hunter Biden did file his 2018 tax return, it included "false business deductions" in an apparent effort to reduce his tax liabilities. 

One of the IRS whistleblowers, a 14-year veteran of the agency named Gary Shapley, told CBS News in an exclusive interview in June, "We have to make sure as a special agent for IRS Criminal Investigation that we treat every single person exactly the same. And that just simply didn't happen here."

The two whistleblowers, Shapley and Joseph Ziegler, called the indictment a "complete vindication of our thorough investigation" in a joint statement to CBS News.

"Eight months ago we did something ordinary people don't do: we risked our careers and reputations to bring the truth out of the shadows and into the light," the two said. "We were moved solely by our consciences, yet faced continual attacks. Nevertheless, in the face of all odds, we never wavered from what we shared with Congress." 

An attorney for Hunter Biden, Abbe Lowell, said in a statement that if Hunter Biden's last name were "anything other than Biden, the charges "would not have been brought." 

"Now, after five years of investigating with no new evidence — and two years after Hunter paid his taxes in full — the U.S. Attorney has piled on nine new charges when he had agreed just months ago to resolve this matter with a pair of misdemeanors," Lowell said. According to his statement, Lowell wrote to Weiss "days ago" to seek a meeting about the investigation and said the only response he received "was media leaks today that these charges were being filed." 

The White House declined to respond and referred CBS News to Hunter Biden's legal team.

The indictment secured by special counsel David Weiss was the second from his office, after prosecutors first filed charges against the president's son in Delaware in September that stemmed from his alleged possession of a Colt Cobra 38SPL revolver in October 2018, which prosecutors previously said he unlawfully possessed for 11 days. Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to those charges.

Weiss, who was appointed U.S. attorney for Delaware by former President Donald Trump and kept on by the Biden administration to continue the Hunter Biden investigation, was named special counsel earlier this year by Attorney General Merrick Garland. 

This latest indictment in California, Hunter Biden's state of legal residence, comes as House Republicans pursue an impeachment inquiry into Mr. Biden. Hunter Biden's personal finances and business ventures have been a focal point for the GOP-led congressional investigations probing whether Mr. Biden personally benefited from his family's businesses and whether senior officials took any steps to obstruct or disrupt criminal investigations into the president's son.  

The indictments follow the collapse of a plea agreement between the government and Hunter Biden's attorneys over taxes and diversion agreement on a firearms charge. In a court hearing that was meant to seal the deal, a federal judge questioned provisions that would have allowed Hunter Biden to avoid prison time on future charges, as well as the tax offenses. The deal fell apart in court, and Hunter Biden ultimately pleaded not guilty to the three felony charges. 

Hunter Biden's criminal attorney at the time, Christopher Clark, issued a statement saying "as his attorney through this entire matter, I can say that any suggestion the investigation was not thorough, or cut corners, or cut my client any slack, is preposterous and deeply irresponsible." Hunter Biden's attorneys stressed that In 2021, Hunter Biden repaid more than $2 million in past-due taxes after receiving a loan from one of his private attorneys.

The charges mark a turning point in the years-long investigation into the president's son, as congressional Republicans are moving ahead with a vote to formalize the impeachment inquiry against Mr. Biden. If the resolution passes, it would give GOP-led committees more firepower to look into his family's business dealings as they search for evidence of wrongdoing.

Republicans want to interview a number of people in the president's orbit as part of the impeachment probe in the coming months, including Hunter Biden, who has been subpoenaed for a deposition before the House Oversight Committee next week. The committee issued subpoenas for Hunter Biden's personal business records in September. 

The special counsel last month voluntarily appeared before the Republican-led House Judiciary Committee before submitting his special counsel report — an unusual move during an ongoing investigation — to "address misunderstandings about the scope of my authority" in the Hunter Biden probe. 

He agreed to the closed-door testimony after Shapley and Ziegler, both case agents previously assigned to the Hunter Biden investigation, told lawmakers that they recommended federal felony and misdemeanor charges be brought against Hunter Biden for tax violations but were told Weiss was "not the deciding person" to bring charges in the case. They alleged that the federal investigation was hampered by intentional slow-walking and "an undeniable pattern of preferential treatment." 

"There were really earth-shaking statements made by David Weiss," Shapley said in an exclusive interview with CBS News earlier this year. "And the first one was that he is not the deciding person on whether or not charges are filed," the whistleblower added. "It was just shocking to me."  

Weiss has repeatedly refuted Shapley's claims and told Congress that before being named special counsel, Justice Department officials assured him he would have the necessary authority to pursue criminal charges against the president's son in any district he deemed necessary, but he ultimately did not seek or receive final authorization, according to a transcript of Weiss' testimony reviewed by CBS News. 

He was elevated to special counsel in August by Garland after telling him that his investigation had reached a stage where he believed his work required that designation. Garland said he concluded it was "in the public interest" to appoint Weiss as special counsel given the "extraordinary circumstances" of the case.

Earlier this week, Weiss' office opposed a move by Hunter Biden's legal team to subpoena Trump, former Attorney General William Barr and other former Justice Department officials for documents and materials that his legal counsel alleges were part of a partisan pressure campaign to pursue the investigation. 

In the court filing, attorneys for the president's son argued communications between Trump and former Justice Department officials during his presidency reveal "more than a mere appearance that President Trump improperly and unrelentingly pressured DOJ to pursue an investigation and prosecution of Mr. Biden to advance President Trump's partisan ambitions." 

Weiss' team, however, pushed back, writing this week, "No charges were brought against defendant during the prior administration when the subpoena recipients actually held office in the Executive Branch." 

Nancy Cordes contributed to this report.

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