FBI and IRS agents spent years looking into what became of a diamond Hunter Biden received in 2017 from a wealthy Chinese business associate, according to new documents from the criminal investigation into his business dealings.
Witnesses appeared to give conflicting answers about the value and location of the jewel.
The diamond exchange was one of several unusual transactions that caught law enforcement officers’ attention during the yearslong investigation into Hunter Biden’s taxes and businesses. Biden did not appear to disclose the diamond as a payment when he eventually filed his taxes for 2017.
Transcripts, text messages, and other documents released last week by the House Ways and Means Committee offered new details about how closely investigators scrutinized the Biden family’s ties to the Chinese business associate, who has since disappeared in China.
Ye Jianming, the former chairman of Chinese energy company CEFC, gave Biden the diamond in Miami in 2017. By that point, Biden had a relationship with CEFC that dated back roughly two years, emails and other documents show.
He and several other business partners — including Rob Walker, James Gilliar, James Biden, and Tony Bobulinski — ultimately began helping CEFC identify investment opportunities around the world, with a particular focus on deals in the United States.
FBI and IRS agents asked Walker if he knew about the diamond when they showed up at his Arkansas home unannounced for an interview in December 2020.
“He might have given it to somebody,” Walker said of what Hunter Biden did with the diamond.
Walker noted that Hunter Biden claimed during a 2019 interview with the New Yorker to have given the diamond to one of his associates.
“If he would have given it to a colleague, it would have … been me or James [Gilliar],” Walker said, adding that neither he nor Gilliar received the diamond.
Hunter Biden told the New Yorker during the 2019 interview that Ye surprised him by sending a 2.8-carat diamond to his hotel room following a meeting in Miami. Hunter Biden claimed in the interview that the Miami meeting had been focused on facilitating a donation from CEFC to the World Food Program USA, where Hunter Biden was then chairman of the board.
Following a discussion over dinner about the donation, Hunter Biden claimed in the interview, the conversation with Ye happened to turn to potential business.
But emails from Hunter Biden’s abandoned laptop suggest the discussions about a World Food Program USA donation from CEFC had actually occurred years earlier, in 2015. And Hunter Biden had already spent the time since then working with CEFC to develop business contacts; James Biden, the president’s brother, had also joined the venture by that point.
Bobulinski, a former business partner involved in the Chinese dealings, contradicted what Hunter Biden told the magazine about the diamond when he spoke with the FBI.
Bobulinski told FBI agents that he “witnessed a large diamond gemstone given as a gift to Hunter Biden by Ye,” according to an FBI document.
Ye presented Hunter Biden with the diamond during a 2017 meeting in Miami, Bobulinski said, at which the Biden family’s work for CEFC was a major topic of discussion. That appears to contradict Hunter Biden’s claim that Ye sent the diamond to his hotel room afterward as a gesture unrelated to business.
Bobulinski, Walker, Hunter Biden, Gilliar, and Ye attended the meeting, and they discussed how to structure payments to Hunter and James Biden now that Joe Biden was out of office and paying them was considered politically safer.
“Hunter Biden and James Biden did not receive any compensation because Joseph Biden was still VPOTUS during this time period,” the FBI noted in a memo summarizing Bobulinski’s interview. “There was a concern it would be improper for payments to be made to Hunter Biden and James Biden by CEFC due to its close affiliation with the Chinese government. Hunter Biden and James Biden both wanted to be compensated for the assistance they had provided to CEFC’s ventures.”
Ideas for how to build a joint venture with CEFC and Hunter Biden’s group emerged from the Miami meeting, Bobulinski said. That joint venture appeared to become, at least for a time, lucrative for Hunter and James Biden; the two appeared to cut Bobulinski out of the deal due to mistrust.
Investigators also asked James Biden about the diamond when they interviewed the president’s brother last year.
James Biden downplayed the exchange, claiming the jewel had no value. He also appeared to provide a third explanation for where Hunter Biden received the diamond.
“James B did recall RHB receiving a diamond from the Chinese but that they found out it was not valuable,” the IRS noted in a memo summarizing what James Biden said during his September 2022 interview. “RHB said that he received the diamond from an associate of the Chairman at his office…James B stated that the Chinese always gave something as a welcome gift.”
However, James Biden claimed he was the one who had the diamond appraised.
“RHB was originally told that the diamond was worth $10,000, but James B took it to a friend of his and found out that it was worthless. James B is only aware of one diamond and was not aware of a larger diamond,” the IRS noted in its memo.
Photographs on Hunter Biden’s laptop appear to contradict James Biden’s testimony. Pictures of the stone and of its paperwork suggest the diamond was 3.16 carats and of relatively high quality.
In divorce proceedings, Hunter Biden’s now ex-wife, Kathleen, said she learned about the diamond in February 2017 and understood the diamond to be worth roughly $80,000. She asked for Hunter Biden to place it in a safety deposit box while they sorted out the division of their assets. According to court filings, Hunter Biden’s divorce lawyers claimed he had returned the diamond to Ye in 2017.
But text messages released last week by the House Ways and Means Committee, as well as Hunter Biden’s own explanation to the New Yorker in 2019, appear to contradict what Hunter Biden said during the divorce proceedings.
In February 2018, Mehall Michael Ledwith, who appears to be one of Hunter Biden’s friends, texted Hunter Biden and asked him to “send me info on the diamond.” That would have been nearly a year after Hunter Biden said he gave the stone back to Ye, and at the time, other messages show, Hunter Biden was experiencing financial strain.
A pair of IRS whistleblowers who spent years working on the Hunter Biden case told Congress this spring that the diamond from Ye, as well as other lavish gifts, made Hunter Biden’s income difficult to calculate at certain periods.
Joseph Ziegler, one of the IRS agents, referenced the search for the Chinese diamond.
“We still don’t know where that diamond is at to this day,” he said.
Evidence suggests CEFC was working to build influence in U.S. political circles at the time Ye forged a bond with Hunter Biden and his associates.
Gal Luft, an Israeli American citizen indicted for working with CEFC, told investigators how much Ye valued the ties he’d built with the Biden family.
Ye “frequently bragged” about the relationships he had formed with Joe Biden, Hunter Biden, and James Biden, Luft told the FBI in 2019.
While Luft acknowledged the possibility that Ye exaggerated his closeness with Joe Biden, Luft also told FBI agents that Joe Biden had met in person with Ye while still vice president, and he shared knowledge of the payments Hunter and Jim Biden received from CEFC that financial documents released last week corroborated.
Democrats have attempted to dismiss Luft as an unreliable witness.