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FBI informant in Bidens’ Ukraine case arrested in Las Vegas

Updated February 15, 2024 - 8:59 pm

An FBI informant arrested at Harry Reid International Airport on Wednesday will continue to be held in federal custody in Las Vegas after he was charged with lying to officials about an alleged multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and a Ukrainian energy company.

Alexander Smirnov appeared in Las Vegas federal court on Thursday afternoon wearing jeans and a black T-shirt, hours after a federal judge in California unsealed an indictment charging Smirnov with making a false statement to federal agents and creating a false and fictitious record.

According to the indictment, Smirnov was a confidential human source with the FBI and is accused of falsely stating that executives with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid Hunter and Joe Biden $5 million each in 2015 or 2016, when then-Vice President Joe Biden was in office during the Obama administration.

Smirnov also falsely claimed that an executive admitted to hiring Hunter Biden to “protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems,” according to a statement from the U.S. Department of Justice.

He falsely told the FBI that the company paid Hunter and Joe Biden to “deal with” the then-Ukrainian prosecutor general, who was conducting a criminal investigation into Burisma, according to the statement.

Smirnov’s claims have been central to the Republican effort in Congress to investigate the president and his family, and helped spark a current impeachment inquiry into Biden, The Associated Press reported. An attorney for Hunter Biden told the AP that the charges show the probe is “based on dishonest, uncredible allegations and witnesses.”

During Thursday’s court hearing, U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts ordered Smirnov to remain in custody in Las Vegas until a detention hearing can be held on Tuesday.

“Do you understand the nature of those charges and the purpose of today’s hearing?” the judge asked Smirnov, who replied: “Yes.”

Attorney Leo Wise, the lead prosecutor assigned to investigating Hunter Biden, also appeared in court on Thursday to argue that Smirnov should not be released from custody.

“The defendant poses a serious risk of flight,” Wise said.

Wise declined to comment on the case following Thursday’s hearing. Smirnov’s federal public defender, Maggie Lambrose, also declined to comment.

According to the indictment, Smirnov made the false allegations about the executives hiring Hunter Biden in 2020 after expressing bias against Joe Biden while he was the presumed Democrat presidential candidate.

Smirnov did have contact with Burisma executives in 2017, but it was after the Obama-Biden administration had ended and when Joe Biden “had no ability to influence U.S. policy,” according to a statement from federal prosecutors.

He was interviewed by FBI agents in September, when he “repeated some of his false claims, changed his story as to other of his claims, and promoted a new false narrative after he said he met with Russian officials,” according to the indictment.

Smirnov is also accused of sending messages in 2020 to his FBI handler that showed he had a bias against Joe Biden, including stating that he believed that Joe Biden was “going to jail,” according to the indictment.

The charges were filed by Justice Department special counsel David Weiss, who had separately charged Hunter Biden with firearm and tax violations, The Associated Press reported.

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., subpoenaed the FBI last year for a form documenting the Burisma allegations, as Republicans deepened their probe of Hunter and Joe Biden ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

The impeachment inquiry into Joe Biden over his son’s business dealings has lagged in the House, but the panel is pushing ahead with its work, according to the AP. Hunter Biden is expected to appear before the committee later this month.

If convicted, Smirnov faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison, according to the U.S. Justice Department.

A previous version of this story had an incorrect date for Smirnov’s arrest.

Contact Katelyn Newberg at knewberg@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0240. The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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