A Chinese energy conglomerate linked to Joe and Hunter Biden allegedly recruited former president Bill Clinton’s CIA director to do Beijing’s bidding, raising questions about what the firm sought from the Biden family.
According to federal prosecutors, CEFC China Energy funded a scheme to "recruit" former CIA director James Woolsey to pen articles for Chinese state-run media that promoted Chinese government initiatives. Prosecutors allege that CEFC China Energy ran the operation through Gal Luft, the co-director of a think tank Woolsey founded. Luft is charged with failing to register as a foreign agent for "work related to Chinese foreign principals." Luft, a dual Israeli and American citizen, disclosed earlier this year that he was under investigation, but claimed he was targeted because he provided the FBI with information about Hunter Biden’s work for CEFC China Energy in 2019.
The allegation that CEFC China Energy targeted a top American intelligence official for an influence operation is certain to add intrigue to the company’s dealings with the Biden family. The family's links to CEFC China Energy drew the attention of the Justice Department’s and FBI’s counterintelligence investigators, according to IRS whistleblower Gary Shapley, who led the agency’s tax fraud investigation of Hunter Biden. Republicans have asserted that the family’s work with CEFC China Energy "posed counterintelligence and extortion concerns," in part because of CEFC China Energy’s alleged ties to Chinese military intelligence.
In some ways, CEFC China Energy’s approach to Biden is similar to its outreach to Luft. Prosecutors allege that Patrick Ho, a CEFC China Energy executive and leader of the company’s China Energy Fund Committee think tank, gave $350,000 to Luft’s think tank in 2015. The following year, Ho asked Luft to "recruit and ‘educate’" Woolsey so that he "would make public statements…which were in the interest of China." According to prosecutors, Luft wrote articles under Woolsey’s name for Chinese state media outlets that promoted China’s Belt and Road Initiative, the massive infrastructure project that Beijing has used to gain influence in foreign countries. CEFC China Energy paid Woolsey $6,000 per month, according to the indictment.
CEFC China Energy also made its first outreach to Hunter Biden in 2015, when his father was vice president. The father of a classmate of Hunter Biden’s daughter contacted Hunter Biden in October 2015, offering to facilitate a donation from CEFC China to a charity where Hunter Biden served as a director. The man, Scott Oh, also asked to discuss "investment opportunities" and "invitations for the B’s to speak in China," an apparent reference to the Biden family.
Weeks later, former United Nations official Vuk Jeremic, who served as a consultant for CEFC China Energy, contacted Hunter Biden to arrange a meeting with the company.
It is unclear what transpired between CEFC China Energy and the Bidens until 2017, when Hunter Biden formally struck a lucrative consulting deal with the company.
The exact nature of Hunter Biden’s work for CEFC China Energy has remained a mystery. He discussed potential energy mergers for CEFC China Energy and energy companies in Louisiana, but those deals fizzled. The company paid Hunter Biden $5 million from August 2017 through May 2018, according to bank records.
There is evidence that Joe Biden was involved in his son’s dealings with CEFC China Energy. Rob Walker, a longtime Biden family friend, told the FBI in December 2020 that Joe and Hunter Biden attended a meeting with CEFC China Energy officials at the Four Seasons in Washington, D.C. And Tony Bobulinski, a former Hunter Biden partner, has released text messages that indicate he met with Joe Biden in May 2017 to discuss a venture with CEFC China Energy.
Hunter Biden invoked his father in a threatening text message to CEFC China Energy executives on July 30, 2017, demanding payment as part of their business arrangement. The company wired Hunter Biden $100,000 days later, and would send him millions of dollars more over the ensuing months. In September 2017, Hunter Biden asked the building manager for his Washington, D.C., office to make a set of keys for his father and CEFC China executives, referring to them all as "office mates."
CEFC China Energy also paid Hunter Biden another $1 million to provide legal services to Patrick Ho, the CEFC China Energy executive who worked closely with Luft. Ho, who is described as Luft’s "co-conspirator" throughout the latest indictment, was indicted in November 2017 for attempting to bribe two African officials to purchase oil rights on behalf of CEFC China Energy. Ho’s meetings with the African officials were arranged by Vuk Jeremic, the CEFC China Energy consultant who contacted Hunter Biden about working with the firm in late 2015.
House Republicans have sought interviews with Jeremic, a former Serbian foreign minister, but he has declined the request.
The indictment provides other details about CEFC China Energy’s ties to the Chinese government, and covert activities aimed at helping Beijing.
According to prosecutors, Luft claimed that CEFC China Energy chairman Ye Jinming "has very close relations with President Xi Jinping." Hunter Biden met Ye numerous times, including at Ye’s house in Miami in February 2017, where Ye gave him an $80,000 diamond. Hunter Biden wrote a letter to Ye on June 1, 2017, offering "best wishes from my family and I."
"We are all hoping to see you here again soon, or in Shanghai," Biden wrote. He also touted "top relationships we have with the leaders both politically and economically in countries you are interested in expanding into."
Hunter Biden seemingly acknowledged concerns that CEFC China Energy was linked to the Chinese government. He referred to Patrick Ho as the "fucking spy chief of China" in audio recordings in 2018. In May 2017 text messages, Hunter Biden said that he wanted to avoid registering work for CEFC China Energy under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, the same law that Luft is now accused of violating.
Neither Hunter Biden nor Woolsey, who served as Clinton’s CIA chief until 1995, have been charged with any crimes related to their work for CEFC China Energy.