Fact Check

Does Newly Released 'FD-1023' Document Prove Burisma CEO Gave Two $5M Bribes to Bidens?

"Thanks to Chuck Grassley’s whistleblowers," U.S. Sen. Blackburn tweeted, “we know … that the Burisma CEO made two $5,000,000 payments" to the Bidens.

Published July 21, 2023

 (Twitter / FBI)
Image Via Twitter / FBI
Claim:
A newly declassified FBI document proves that Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden each received $5 million in bribes from Burisma Founder Mykola Zlochevsky.
Context

Nothing that has not been previously reported is contained within the newly released FD-1023 form detailing communications between an FBI informant and the founder and owner of Burisma. The allegations, at this time, remain second-hand hearsay.

On July 20, 2023, U.S. Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, did something he had been promising to do since May 2023: He released a lightly redacted copy of a FBI summary of an interview, known as a FD-1023, in which a confidential informant claimed that he had been told there may be evidence proving that the Biden family, via the president's son Hunter, had accepted bribes from Ukrainian oil tycoon and Burisma Founder Mykola Zlochevsky.

Some politicians hailed the news as "proving" the reality of Biden's corruption, despite the details of the informant's testimony already being public and based on second-hand information:

As Snopes previously reported, the informant in this case claims to have discussed business matters related to Burisma and the Bidens with Zlochevsky. During those interactions, the informant claims that Zlochevsky stated that he had recorded conversations with both Hunter and Joe Biden related to the alleged bribes. Grassley first alluded to the existence of this form on May 3, 2023. While that document was not released at that time, all of the relevant details it contained were leaked to reporters. Reporting on Grassley's announcement in early June 2023, Fox News reported:

Fox News Digital has not seen the form, but it was described by several sources who are aware of its contents. [...]The Burisma executive sought the advice of the confidential source, a business professional, on gaining U.S. oil rights and getting involved with a U.S. oil company, the sources familiar with the document said. The Burisma executive was speaking with the confidential source to "get advice on the best way to go forward" in 2015 and 2016. [...]

The Burisma executive explained to the confidential source that Burisma had to "pay the Bidens" because Ukrainian prosecutor Viktor Shokin was investigating Burisma, and explained how difficult it would be to enter the U.S. market in the midst of that investigation. [...]

Sources familiar told Fox News Digital that the confidential human source believes that the $5 million payment to Joe Biden and the $5 million payment to Hunter Biden occurred, based on his or her conversations with the Burisma executive. 

The confidential source said the Burisma executive told him he "paid" the Bidens in such a manner "through so many different bank accounts" that investigators would not be able to "unravel this for at least 10 years."

The document then makes reference to "the Big Guy," which has been said to be a reference to Joe Biden. The Burisma executive told the confidential source that he "didn't pay the Big Guy directly." 

The release of these documents confirms only that an informant told the FBI these things and an agent wrote them down, but it does not offer anything outside of hearsay as evidence. The document provides little new insight outside of confirming what was already reported by Grassley in May 2023

The FD-1023 document refers to the informant as "Confidential Human Source," or CHS, and it details that individual's multiple meetings or communications with Zlochevsky. According to the source, their first meeting occurred in Kyiv in late 2015 or early 2016, where an associate of Zlochevsky cryptically referred to Burisma's 2014 decision to put Hunter Biden on Burisma's board as a move to "protect" the company:

CHS [...] traveled to Ukraine and went to Burisma's office that was located 20 minutes away from the City Center. The purpose of the meeting was to discuss Burisma's interest In purchasing a US-based oil and gas business, for purposes of merging it with Burisma for purposes of conducting an IPO in the US. Burisma was willing to purchase a US-based entity for $20-30 million. [...]

During the meeting, [Burisma CFO Vadym Pojarskii] asked CHS whether CHS was aware of Burisma's Board of Directors. CHS replied "no", and Pojarskii advised the board members included: 1) the former President or Prime Minister of Poland; and, 2) Joe Biden's son, Hunter Biden. Pojarskii said Burisma hired the former President or Prime Minister of Poland to leverage his contacts in Europe for prospective oil and gas deals, and they hired Hunter Biden to "protect us, through his dad, from all kinds or problems" 

(CHS was certain Pojarskii provided no further/specific details about what that meant). 

CHS asked why they (Burisma) needed to get CHS's assistance regarding the purchase/merger of a US-based company when Biden was on their board. Pojarskii replied that Hunter Biden was not smart, and they wanted to get additional counsel. The group then had a general conversation about whether the purchase/merger with a US company would be a good business decision. 

At a second meeting in Vienna in early 2016, the informant was allegedly told that Hunter would take care of issues related to the alleged investigation into Burisma, which was theoretically led at the time by a prosecutor general Viktor Shokin, who then-Vice President Biden had publicly labeled as corrupt:

After the aforementioned Burisma meeting in Ukraine, CHS traveled to Vienna, Austria with Ostapenko and met with Mykola Zlochevsky at an outside coffee shop. The trio continued to talk about the feasibility of Burisma acquiring a US-based entity. CHS recalled this meeting took place around the time Joe Biden made a public statement about (former) Ukraine Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin being corrupt, and that he should be fired/removed from office. 

CHS told Zlochevsky that due to Shokin's investigation into Burisma, which was made public at this time, it would have a substantial negative impact on Burisma's prospective IPO in the United States. Zlochevsky replied something to the effect of, "Don't worry Hunter will take care of all of those Issues through his dad." CHS did not ask any further questions about what that specifically meant. 

According to the informant, it was during this meeting, allegedly as an offhand comment, that Zlochevsky first mentioned bribing the Bidens:

CHS advised Zlochevsky It would be problematic to raise capital! In the US given Shokin's investigation Into Burisma as nobody in the US would invest in a company that was the subject of a criminal investigation. CHS suggested it would be best if Burisma simply litigate the matter In Ukraine, and pay some attorney $50,000. 

Zlochevsky said he/Burisma would likely lose the trial because he could not show that Burisma was innocent; Zlochevsky also laughed at CHS's number of $50,000 (not because of the small amount, but because the number contained a "5") and said that "it costs (million) to pay one Biden, and 5 (million) to another Biden." CHS noted that at this time, It was unclear to CHS whether these alleged payments were already made. [...]

CHS reiterated CHS's opinion that Zlochevsky was making a mistake and he should fire Hunter Biden and deal with Shokin's investigation directly so that the matter will remain an issue in Ukraine, and not turn into some international matter.

Zlochevsky responded something to the effect of, "Don't worry, this thing will go away anyway." CHS replied that, notwithstanding Shokin's investigation, it was still a bad decision for Burisma to spend $20-$30 million to buy a US business, and that CHS didn't want to be involved with the Biden matter. 

Zlochevsky responded that he appreciated CHS's advice, but that "it's too late to change his decision." CHS understood this to mean that Zlochevsky had already paid the Bidens, presumably to "deal with Shokin." 

The informant allegedly had two more phone calls in which Zlochevsky was a participant. During the 2016 call, the informant said he was told that Zlochevsky was unhappy Donald Trump had won the election, and that he had been coerced to pay the Bidens, and that he retained evidence of that coercion:

Shortly after the 2016 US election and during President Trump's transition period, CHS participated in a conference call with Ostapenko and Zlochevsky. CHS inquired whether Zlochevsky was happy with the US election results. 

Zlochevsky replied that he was not happy Trump won the election. CHS asked Zlochevsky whether he was concerned about Burisma's involvement with the Bidens. Zlochevsky stated he didn't want to pay the Bidens and he was "pushed to pay" them. [...]

Zlochevsky stated Shokin had already been fired, and no investigation was currently going on, and that nobody would find out about his financial dealings with the Bidens. CHS then stated, "l hope you have some back-up (proof) for your words (namely, that Zlochevsky was "forced" to pay the Bidens).

Zlochevsky replied he has many text messages and "recordings" that show that he was coerced to make such payments. [...] CHS told Zlochevsky he should make certain that he should retain those recordings. 

During the final Zlochevsky call in 2019, which occurred during a business meeting in Vienna, the informant was allegedly told about multiple bank accounts used to transfer money to Joe Biden: 

CHS mentioned Zlochevsky might have difficulty explaining suspicious wire transfers that may evidence any (Illicit) payments to the Bidens. Zlochevsky responded he did not send any funds directly to the "Big Guy" (which CHS understood was a reference to Joe Biden). CHS asked Zlochevsky how many companies/bank accounts Zlochevsky controls; Zlochevsky responded it would take them (Investigators) 10 years to find the records (i.e. illic.it payments to Joe Biden). CHS told Zlochevsky if he ever needed help in the future and wanted to speak to somebody in the US government about that matter, that CHS could Introduce him to someone.

Later, the informant allegedly provided additional information to the FBI regarding the alleged documents or recordings containing prove of these bribes:

Regarding CHS's aforementioned reporting that Zlochevsky said - "he has many text messages and "recordings" that show he was coerced to make such payments - CHS clarified ZIochevsky said he had a total of "17 recordings" involving the Bidens; two of the recordings included Joe Biden, and the remaining 15 recordings only Included Hunter Biden. 

CHS reiterated that, per Zlochevsky, these recordings evidence Zlochevsky was somehow coerced into paying the Bidens to ensure Ukraine Prosecutor General Viktor Shokin was fired. Zlochevsky stated he has two "documents (which CHS understood to be wire transfer statements, bank records, etc.), that evidence some payment(s) to the Bidens were made, presumably in exchange for Shokin's firing. 

Indeed, these details had already been made public as well, as Fox News reported in June 2023. As was the case then, no public reporting has suggested that anybody has actually heard these recordings or seen these documents, if they actually do exist.  

Politico asked Zlochevsky in 2020 to detail any contacts he had with Joe Biden from 2013 to 2019. He replied that, "No one from Burisma ever had any contacts with VP Biden or people working for him during Hunter Biden's engagement." 

Another matter complicating the timeline proposed by the informant are assertions that — at the time of the alleged bribery — there was no active investigation into Burisma by Shokin, as reported by the Washington Post in July 2019:

Biden was among the many Western officials who pressed for the removal of Shokin because he actually was not investigating the corruption endemic to the country. Indeed, he was not investigating Burisma at the time. In September 2015, then-U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoffrey Pyatt publicly criticized Shokin's office for thwarting a British money-laundering probe into Burisma's owner, Mykola Zlochevsky.

"Shokin was not investigating. He didn't want to investigate Burisma," Daria Kaleniuk, of the Ukrainian Anti-Corruption Action Center, told The Washington Post in July. "And Shokin was fired not because he wanted to do that investigation, but quite to the contrary, because he failed that investigation."

Because this form does not constitute proof of the veracity of Zlochevsy's claims, or proof that the informant actually heard him make them in the first place, we rate this rumor as "False." 

Sources

Bump, Philip. "Analysis | The GOP 'Bribery' Allegations against Biden Remain Transparently Thin." Washington Post, 13 June 2023. www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2023/06/13/gop-biden-allegation-analysis/.

Grassley Obtains & Releases FBI Record Alleging VP Biden Foreign Bribery Scheme | U.S. Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa. https://www.grassley.senate.gov/news/news-releases/grassley-obtains-and-releases-fbi-record-alleging-vp-biden-foreign-bribery-scheme. Accessed 21 July 2023.

Kessler, Glenn. "Analysis | A Quick Guide to Trump's False Claims about Ukraine and the Bidens." Washington Post, 27 Sept. 2019. www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2019/09/27/quick-guide-trumps-false-claims-about-ukraine-bidens/.

Kranish, Michael. "As Vice President, Biden Said Ukraine Should Increase Gas Production. Then His Son Got a Job with a Ukrainian Gas Company." Washington Post, 26 July 2019. www.washingtonpost.com, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/as-vice-president-biden-said-ukraine-should-increase-gas-production-then-his-son-got-a-job-with-a-ukrainian-gas-company/2019/07/21/f599f42c-86dd-11e9-98c1-e945ae5db8fb_story.html.

Singman, Brooke. "Grassley: Burisma Executive Who Allegedly Paid Biden Has Audio Recordings of Conversations with Joe, Hunter." Fox News, 12 June 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/grassley-burisma-executive-who-allegedly-paid-biden-has-audio-recordings-of-conversations-with-joe-hunter.

---. "Joe Biden Allegedly Paid $5M by Burisma Executive as Part of a Bribery Scheme, According to FBI Document." Fox News, 8 June 2023, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/biden-allegedly-paid-5-million-by-burisma-executive.
 

Alex Kasprak is an investigative journalist and science writer reporting on scientific misinformation, online fraud, and financial crime.