By Costas Pitas and Andrew Goudsward
LOS ANGELES (Reuters) -The Department of Justice on Thursday filed new criminal charges against U.S. President Joe Biden’s son, Hunter, accusing him of failing to pay $1.4 million in taxes while spending millions of dollars on a lavish lifestyle.
Hunter Biden, 53, was hit with three felony and six misdemeanor tax offenses, according to an indictment filed in U.S. District Court, Central District of California.
He faces up to 17 years in prison if convicted. The Justice Department said its investigation into Biden is ongoing.
“The Defendant engaged in a four-year scheme to not pay at least $1.4 million in self-assessed federal taxes he owed for tax years 2016 through 2019,” the indictment read.
It added that he had instead spent huge sums “on drugs, escorts and girlfriends, luxury hotels and rental properties, exotic cars, clothing, and other items of a personal nature” including over $70,000 on drug rehabilitation.
Hunter Biden’s lawyer, Abbe Lowell, said in statement that his client had repaid his taxes in full, accusing U.S. Special Counsel David Weiss, who is leading the probe into Hunter Biden, of reneging on a previous agreement and political bias.
“If Hunter’s last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought,” Lowell said.
Weiss “bowed to Republican pressure” to file earlier gun charges against Hunter Biden, Lowell wrote, added new tax charges after the taxes were repaid, and did not respond to a request a meeting to discuss the investigation.
The White House declined to comment.
It was not clear when Hunter Biden would appear in court.
The indictment says Hunter Biden “earned handsomely” while serving on the boards of Burisma, a Ukrainian industrial conglomerate, and a Chinese private equity fund.
Prosecutors said that between 2016 and October 2020, he received more than $7 million in total gross income.
That included nearly $2.3 million from his position on the board of directors of Burisma between 2016 and 2019, the filing says.
Hunter Biden’s affiliation with Burisma has been the focus of years of attacks from Republican lawmakers who have accused him of leveraging his family name to make money overseas.
“The Defendant had a legal obligation to pay taxes on all his income, including income earned in Ukraine from his service on Burisma’s Board, fees generated by deal-making with the Chinese private equity fund, as well as income derived from his work as a lawyer and other sources,” the indictment said.
Adding to Hunter Biden’s income was work for CEFC China Energy Co Ltd, a Chinese energy conglomerate.
As Hunter Biden’s income increased, so did his spending, according to the filing.
In 2018 alone, the indictment read, Hunter Biden “spent more than $1.8 million, including approximately $772,000 in cash withdrawals, approximately $383,000 in payments to women, approximately $151,000 in clothing and accessories”.
The indictment added: “The Defendant did not use any of these funds to pay his taxes in 2018.”
Hunter Biden in October pleaded not guilty to charges in Delaware that he lied about his drug use while buying a handgun, in the first criminal prosecution of a sitting U.S. president’s child.
Weiss was appointed Delaware U.S. attorney by former President Donald Trump. He was made special counsel by Attorney General Merrick Garland in August.
He brought charges in Delaware against Hunter Biden after the unraveling of an earlier proposed plea deal that had called for him to plead guilty to two misdemeanor tax charges for failing to pay taxes in 2017 and 2018, an agreement which likely would have allowed him to avoid prison.
U.S. District Judge Maryellen Noreika rejected the proposed plea deal in July, raising concerns over its legality and the scope of immunity it offered.
Trump, the leading contender to be the Republican Party’s nominee in next year’s presidential election, said the plea deal amounted to favorable treatment for the president’s son.
(Reporting by Costas Pitas in Los Angeles and Andrew Goudsward in Washington; Additional reporting by Jasper Ward in Washington, Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Noeleen Walder in New York and Brad Brooks in Longmont, Colorado; Writing by Brad Brooks; Editing by Eric Beech, Ross Colvin and Edwina Gibbs)