DEMOCRAT presidential hopeful Joe Biden is facing charges over his role in stopping corruption investigations against his son in Ukraine after former top prosecutor lodged a criminal complaint against him.
Viktor Shokin had been leading investigations into gas and oil firm Burisma, where Hunter Biden was a director drawing around $50,000 (£38,000) a month, when he was sacked by then-Ukrainian president Petro Poroshenko in April 2016.
Allegedly Mr Shokin’s firing happened under pressure from Joe Biden, who was US vice-president at the time.
The UkraineGate scandal is at the centre of the ongoing impeachment trial against US President Donald Trump. Mr Trump has been accused of abusing his political office by urging current Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to investigate Mr Biden over the scandal.
The former vice-president denies any wrongdoing and is seeking the Democratic Party nomination to be its candidate in the 2020 US presidential election.
But on Tuesday Mr Shokin filed a criminal complaint with Ukraine’s State Bureau of Investigations (SBI) asking that Mr Biden be charged with “interference with the activities of a law enforcement officer.”
He wants the SBI to open pre-trial investigations into the allegations that Mr Biden illegally pressured Ukrainian officials to sack him, using a $1 billion (£769 million) loan as leverage.
Mr Shokin claims that Mr Biden repeatedly visited Ukraine in 2015 and 2016 and met with high-ranking officials in a bid to block investigations into his son’s company.
The senior Democrat figure openly boasted at a 2018 Council on Foreign Relations event that in March 2016 he had given Mr Poroshenko six hours to fire Mr Shokin or he would drop the loan guarantee.
“As a result, he curtailed an objective investigation into criminal proceedings on the facts of unlawful activities of persons associated with the company Burisma Holdings Limited (Cyprus), including the son of the specified high-ranking official [Biden’s son Hunter, who sat on the company’s board from 2014-19],” Mr Shokin claimed.
Despite claims that the case against Burisma was dormant at the time of Mr Shokin’s dismissal, he said that in fact he was overseeing six investigations into the company at the time.
After Mr Shokin was removed as prosecutor general on April 3 Mr Biden allegedly called Mr Poroshenko to say that the $1bn loan would be going ahead.
The scandal appears to have damaged Mr Biden with his poll ratings dropping in recent weeks. Senior Republicans say the allegations bring his political viability into question.
The Iowa caucus takes place on Monday.