Hunter Biden indicted for evading $1.4m in tax: What we know and what next?

The younger Biden is charged for the second time this year amid a heated presidential election campaign.

Hunter Biden, son of U.S. President Joe Biden, departs federal court after a plea hearing on two misdemeanor charges of willfully failing to pay income taxes in Wilmington, Delaware.
Biden's plea deal for earlier charges fell apart in July as a US district judge raised concerns over its legality and the scope of immunity it offered [File: Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

United States President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter Biden, was indicted for multiple counts of tax evasion late on Thursday. Here’s what there is to know:

What are the recent charges against Hunter Biden?

The US Justice Department filed three felony and six misdemeanour tax offences against Biden, 53, on Thursday, according to an indictment filed in the US District Court, Central District of California. He is accused of failing to file and pay taxes, evading tax assessment and making a false or fraudulent tax return, according to court documents presented in Los Angeles.

Biden “engaged in a four-year scheme to not pay at least $1.4 million in self-assessed federal taxes he owed for tax years 2016 through 2019,” the indictment filed in a US district court in central California read.

It further added that Biden instead spent this money on personal expenditures including luxury hotels, cars, clothing and more than $70,000 on drug rehabilitation.

Prosecutors said that between 2016 and October 2020, he received more than $7m in total gross income.

Republican lawmakers have continually slammed the younger Biden for leveraging his family name to make money overseas such as with Burisma, one of the largest gas companies in Ukraine, where he made $2.3m from 2016 to 2019. He has also worked at a Chinese private equity fund. Joe Biden was US vice president from 2009 to 2017.

Has Hunter Biden been indicted before?

Biden is being charged this year for a second time by a special counsel investigating his personal and business dealings.

Previous charges accuse him of illegally owning a handgun alongside two counts of lying about his drug use on a federal application when he purchased the gun.

In July, a plea bargain between Hunter Biden and special counsel David Weiss – which would have erased the gun charges while Biden pleaded guilty to two tax charges and avoided prison – fell apart.

In October, he pleaded not guilty to these charges in Delaware, in the first criminal prosecution of a sitting US president’s child.

Can he face trial and go to jail?

The new charges mean that Hunter Biden could in theory go on trial twice next year. It was not clear when he would appear in court.

If convicted, Biden can face up to 17 years in prison. The Justice Department said its investigation into Biden is continuing.

What are the reactions to Biden’s indictment?

While the White House declined to comment, President Biden has previously insisted he stands by his son despite his past troubled behaviour.

Hunter Biden’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said in a statement that his client had repaid his taxes in full, accusing Weiss of renouncing a previous agreement, according to US media. He accused Weiss of “bowing to Republican pressure”.

“If Hunter’s last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought,” Lowell was quoted as saying.

What does this mean for Joe Biden’s 2024 presidential campaign?

This indictment comes as Joe Biden likely faces former US President Donald Trump in the 2024 race for the presidency.

It also comes as congressional Republicans pursue an impeachment inquiry into President Biden, claiming he was engaged in an influence-peddling scheme with his son.

The House is expected to vote next week on formally authorising the inquiry. No evidence has emerged so far to prove that Joe Biden, in his current or previous office, abused his role or accepted bribes, though questions have arisen about the ethics surrounding the Biden family’s international business.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies