In Cyprus, Hunter Biden Looms Large Over Island’s Skullduggeries

Is the president hounding an American-Israeli expert who is said to have information about the alleged double-dealing of his son Hunter?

AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta
President Biden and Hunter Biden at Johns Island, South Carolina, August 13, 2022. AP/Manuel Balce Ceneta

As anyone who has ever lived on an island will attest, they are not the best places for keeping secrets. In case President Biden never got that memo in Delaware, one is about to come his way, if for the time being unofficially, from Cyprus.

Twin dramas unfolding on the Mediterranean island could eventually implicate the president in a wide-ranging probe now under way on the Hill into his family’s international business dealings.

There is no American political family now more clearly targeted by a Congressional graft probe than the Bidens, and there is no island in the Mediterranean with as twisted a history as Cyprus. Put the two together and it spells more trouble for the president than he, as well as some investigating Republicans, may possibly realize. 

The common denominator is that Cyprus, though best known by tourists as an island of sunny beaches and the birthplace of Aphrodite, has long been a haven of money laundering — principally for Russian and Ukrainian oligarchs. 

It is also where the Ukrainian energy firm Burisma, which has been accused of bribery and for which Hunter Biden served as board member, is actually registered.

The Republic of Cyprus has been a member of the EU since 2004 but Turkey still parks its troops illegally in the top third of the island, an anomalous political situation that creates a breeding ground for dodgy financial dealings of an international nature. Almost every day there are new reports of how Cyprus connections have helped oligarchs sanctioned by Washington and the EU hide their wealth. 

Mr. Biden obviously does not fit that mold, but he has a quixotic history with the island. Now, a former Obama official, Mike McCormick, has accused Mr. Biden of committing crimes in connection with Burisma that stemmed from a mysterious trip to Cyprus in 2014 — the year that Hunter Biden started serving on Burisma’s board.

The crux of Mr. McCormick’s claim is that Mr. Biden used American taxpayer money to enrich his own family by greasing Ukrainian gas deals essentially backed by Washington at a time when Mr. Biden served as vice president. Mr. McCormick also named the current national security advisor, Jake Sullivan, as a conspirator in “promoting a kickback scheme with Ukraine.”

Joe Biden made the trip to Cyprus about a week after a trip to Kyiv. According to Mr. McCormick, Mr. Sullivan made references to American investment in the Ukrainian energy sector just days after Hunter Biden’s appointment. Later that year, Congress reportedly allocated $50 million to Ukraine’s energy market.

The stated reason for the vice president’s detour to Cyprus in 2014 was to help find a solution to the Cyprus problem, but that is a tough line to swallow. Since the Turkish invasion in July 1974, many solutions to undoing the island’s political division have been proffered, virtually all brokered by the United Nations, which maintains a peacekeeping force and buffer zone on the island. Each one has failed, and the situation is deadlocked. Of his various foreign policy priorities while in office, Cyprus was almost lamentably low on President Obama’s agenda. 

That is what makes a private dinner that Joe and Jill Biden attended at the residence of the Cyprian president at the time, Nicos Anastasiades, on May 21, 2014, somewhat curious. Not only because the house was at Limassol, the coastal port city where Burisma is registered. The absence of reporters or readouts would appear to belie Mr. Biden’s assurance that his visit was purely about matters of state, if it even was at all. 

Not that one should be judged by the company one keeps, but subsequent to that dinner, a law firm founded by Mr. Anastasiades was accused of hiding the assets of a Russian lawmaker on the lam.

From Cyprus comes a second thorn in the president’s side — other than his son Hunter, that is. In February a 56-year-old American-Israeli defense and energy analyst, Gal Luft, was arrested in Cyprus on charges of illegal arms trafficking, which he denied. Mr. Luft claimed that his arrest was a form of retaliation by President Biden for his having cooperated with the FBI in 2019 in a corruption case linked to Hunter Biden. 

Mr. Luft’s attorney in Israel, Mordechai Tzivin, told Ynet that his client’s testimony could “bury Hunter Biden, that’s why they’re trying to bury him first.” 

And, what do you know, Mr. Luft has vanished. 

While he had posted bail and been conditionally discharged, Mr. Luft did not report to the police station at Pafos on March 28. A spokesman for the Larnaca police, Haris Hadjiyiasemi, told reporters that another European and international arrest warrant was issued after Mr. Luft went missing. Mr. Hadjiyiasemi added that police seized a sum of 250,000 euros from a guarantor Mr. Luft  had named before the Larnaca court ordered his release.

A leading Greek business newspaper, Capital, reported that Mr. Luft did not appear at a trial scheduled by the Larnaca District Court on April 3, and that a sum of 150,000 euros that he had previously paid was frozen. 

The newspaper surmised that all these doings are what happens when someone “messes” with the family of President Biden. 

Although he steadfastly denied all charges, Mr. Luft had been fearing extradition to the United States. In February, Israel’s ministry of foreign affairs confirmed to the Sun that it was “familiar with the case” and was dealing with its consular aspects. 

Neither the American nor Israeli embassies at Nicosia responded to a request for comment Wednesday. 

Will President Biden soon find that what happens in Cyprus does not necessarily stay in Cyprus? Thanks to his son and fresh international intrigue involving at least four countries — Cyprus, America, Ukraine, and Israel — maybe he just did. 

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Correction: Gal Luft is the American-Israeli defense and energy analyst who was arrested in Cyprus in February. An earlier version misstated his first name.


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