Hunter Biden pleads not guilty to tax evasion charges

US President Joe Biden's son faces up to 17 years in prison if convicted on felony and misdemeanour charges

Hunter Biden, son of US President Joe Biden, at a House oversight committee meeting on January 10 in Washington. AFP
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Hunter Biden pleaded not guilty to tax evasion charges when he appeared in Federal Court on Thursday.

The case adds more pressure on his father, US President Joe Biden, before his election rematch against Donald Trump, who is by far favourite for the Republicans' presidential candidate.

Hunter Biden, 53, is a lightning rod for Republicans, who have condemned the recovering drug addict, alleging – without evidence – that he and his father were partners in a criminal family enterprise.

The younger Biden's appearance in Los Angeles came a day after he turned up unannounced on Capitol Hill where two Republican-dominated House committees were debating contempt resolutions over his refusal to give closed-door testimony about his business dealings last month.

He was arraigned on Thursday on nine counts of refusing to pay federal taxes.

The indictment, issued on December 7, alleges that money that should have gone to government coffers was instead squandered on funding an “extravagant lifestyle".

Between 2016 and October 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 56-page indictment says.

Hunter Biden faces up to 17 years in prison if convicted of all the three felonies and six misdemeanours.

He is also under indictment on federal gun charges in Delaware that allege in 2018 he broke laws against drug users having guns.

Last year, a deal that would have seen him plead guilty to two misdemeanour tax counts and acknowledge a firearms violation collapsed amid Republican criticism that the Justice Department was going easy on the case out of deference to the President.

"Based on the facts and the law, if Hunter's last name was anything other than Biden, the charges in Delaware, and now California, would not have been brought," his attorney Abbe Lowell said in December.

Republicans are using the allegations to underpin an impeachment investigation into the President.

The inquiry has virtually no chance of ending in a Senate conviction but is serving as a platform to inflict damage on Mr Biden ahead of the November presidential election – and a distraction from Mr Trump's criminal and civil charges, which include an alleged conspiracy to overthrow the 2020 election.

The President's wife, Jill Biden, on Thursday condemned Republican attacks on her son.

“I think what they are doing to Hunter is cruel. And I'm really proud of how Hunter has rebuilt his life after addiction,” Ms Biden told MSNBC.

“You know, I love my son. And it's hurt my grandchildren, and that's what I'm so concerned about that. It's affecting their lives as well.”

Updated: January 11, 2024, 10:32 PM