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Hunter Biden will face a criminal trial in the midst of his father’s bid for re-election
By Sam Cabral in Washington & Samantha Granville in Los Angeles
BBC News

US President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, has pleaded not guilty to tax offences in a California federal court.

He was indicted last month on nine criminal counts, including for failing to pay his taxes on time from 2016 to 2019, filing false tax returns in 2018 and tax evasion.

If convicted on these charges, Mr Biden could face up to 17 years in prison.

He is also facing separate federal charges over gun offences, to which he has already pleaded not guilty.

Mr Biden, 53, made his first appearance in the tax case at a downtown Los Angeles courtroom on Thursday afternoon, sitting solemnly at the defence desk and standing as his lawyer Abbe Lowell entered a not guilty plea on his behalf.

The father of four agreed to be released without detention on several conditions, including that he cannot drink, consume drugs, maintain employment or buy guns.

If he violates the terms of his release, the judge warned there would be an arrest warrant out for the president’s son and he may be imprisoned.

The hearing drew a large gathering of the press to the courthouse, with US Secret Service officers doing a security sweep of the building and a nearby protester repeatedly shouting “Hunter’s laptop” into a loudspeaker.

Thursday’s arraignment is the latest development in a five-year investigation by federal prosecutors into Mr Biden’s finances.

Over the summer, the president’s son was close to a plea deal. Investigators were also ready to agree that a gun charge against him would be dropped in two years if he stayed out of legal trouble. But the agreement collapsed under scrutiny from a judge.

As a result, Mr Biden was indicted in Delaware in September on three charges related to his illegal purchase of a firearm in 2018, while he was battling substance abuse.

According to the 56-page tax related charges filed against Mr Biden in December, he made more than $7m (£5.5m) in gross income between 2016 and 2020 from business dealings in Ukraine, and related to connections from Romania and China.

Prosecutors say Mr Biden “wilfully” failed to either pay or file his taxes to the Internal Revenue Service from 2016 to 2019, instead spending his money on personal extravagances.

“Between 2016 and Oct 15, 2020, the defendant spent this money on drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing, and other items of a personal nature, in short, everything but his taxes,” the document states.

The charges span a period when Mr Biden was addicted to alcohol and crack cocaine.

He wrote about it extensively in his memoir, Beautiful Things, saying he had used substances to cope with the grief of losing his older brother Beau to brain cancer in 2015.

Since then, Mr Biden says he has become sober.

He has also paid off all his tax debts, including penalties and interest, largely with the help of loans from Kevin Morris, a close friend and LA-based entertainment attorney.

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8 December 2023
8 December 2023
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8 December 2023