Hunter Biden, who has long been a target of Donald Trump and his allies, said he had learned about the federal investigation on Tuesday from his lawyer, who was informed of the matter by the US attorney’s office earlier that day, according to the Guardian.

“I take this matter very seriously but I am confident that a professional and objective review of these matters will demonstrate that I handled my affairs legally and appropriately, including with the benefit of professional tax advisers,” Hunter Biden said in a statement released by the president-elect’s transition office.

Trump and his allies have sought to tarnish his political opponent Joe Biden with unproven corruption charges involving his son. Trump’s early pursuit of these unsubstantiated allegations resulted in his impeachment after he pressured the newly elected president of Ukraine to investigate Hunter Biden’s work in the country while his father was vice-president.

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Hunter Biden, center, son of President-elect Joe Biden, revealed his tax affairs are being investigated by the US attorney’s office in Delaware. Photo: EPA

Nevertheless, the president remained fixated on Hunter Biden throughout the campaign season, aided by his personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, and his Republican supporters on Capitol Hill. A Senate investigation into the allegations led by Trump’s allies found no evidence of improper influence or wrongdoing by the former vice-president, concluding only that Hunter Biden had leveraged his family name to secure lucrative business deals.

In the final weeks of the campaign, Giuliani claimed a laptop recovered from a repair shop in Delaware and belonged to Hunter Biden documented his foreign business dealings. With Giuliani as a conduit, the allegations were published by the New York Post to buttress the baseless claim that Biden shaped American foreign policy in Ukraine to benefit his son. The Biden campaign categorically denied the story and many of the key details were disputed.

Hunter Biden tax probe examining Chinese business dealings

Investigators appear to be focused on Hunter Biden's business activities connected to China. Some of his business dealings in China are publicly known through interviews and documents released in September by Senate Republicans on the Finance Committee and the Committee on Homeland Security and Government Affairs.

After his father left office in 2017, Hunter Biden worked on securing a deal with CEFC China Energy to invest in US energy projects, according to documents released by Republicans.

At least one of the matters investigators have examined is a 2017 gift of a 2.8-carat diamond that Hunter Biden received from CEFC's founder and former chairman Ye Jianming after a Miami business meeting, one person briefed on the matter said. In 2019, Biden provided the New Yorker magazine an account of receiving the diamond from Ye. He told the New Yorker that he felt uncomfortable receiving the diamond and gave it to other associates and that he doesn't know what they did with it. "I knew it wasn't a good idea to take it. I just felt like it was weird," he said in his New Yorker interview.

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President-elect Joe Biden, right, embraces his son Hunter Biden, left, in Wilmington, Del. Photo: AP

Hunter Biden told the New Yorker that the CEFC deal fell through and that he didn't consider Ye to be a shady character. Chinese authorities later detained Ye, amid Chinese media reports of corruption allegations against him.

In the magazine interview, Hunter Biden went public with his account of his personal struggles, including substance abuse and the breakup of his marriage. During his divorce proceedings, attorneys for his ex-wife cited a diamond that Biden had received and suggested it was worth $80,000. Biden told the New Yorker it was worth about $10,000.

Receiving such a gift could have potential tax implications for Biden and his account to the New Yorker doesn't describe how he dealt with the issue thereafter. Sources tell CNN that investigators have been looking into whether Biden properly reported his income for tax purposes over a period of time. While the diamond was initially part of the inquiry, it's unclear whether the gift remains part of the focus of investigators.

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Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden attend an NCAA basketball game between Georgetown University and Duke University in Washington, January 30, 2010. Photo: Reuter

Hunter Biden later briefly acted as a lawyer to represent Patrick Ho, who ran an organization backed by CEFC, and who was convicted in 2018 of paying millions of dollars in bribes to officials in Chad and Uganda to benefit CEFC energy projects in those countries. Ho was sentenced to a three-year federal prison term. He has since been released and is back in Hong Kong, his attorney said.

Hunter Biden had been involved in an earlier Chinese business venture that drew concerns in the Obama White House and Joe Biden's staff, according to the New Yorker. In 2013, Hunter Biden became involved with the US and Chinese partners who were creating an investment fund called BHR Partners for deals outside China. Hunter Biden was an unpaid member of the BHR board and took an equity stake after his father left office, the New Yorker reported.

A challenge for a new President

In an interview with CNN's Jake Tapper last week, President-elect Biden pledged to maintain an independent Justice Department free of political influence.

"I'm not going to be telling them what they have to do and don't have to do. I'm not going to be saying, go prosecute A, B, or C," Biden said.

"That's not the role -- it's not my Justice Department. It's the people's Justice Department.

"The person or persons I pick to run that department are going to be people who are going to have the independent capacity to decide who gets prosecuted and who doesn't," said Biden.

Republicans in Congress are almost certain to seize on the existence of the probe to further their argument that Hunter Biden's activities in China are a sign of his father's conflict of interest when it comes to dealing with the foreign policy with Beijing, CNN added.

It's also likely going to be an issue that Biden's attorney general nominee will have to face during a Senate confirmation hearing.

Trump faced a similar, but much thornier, problem after taking office in 2017 when his then-attorney general, Jeff Sessions, quickly had to recuse himself from overseeing the federal investigation of the Trump campaign and possible links to Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Sessions were part of the President's election campaign and he held meetings with the then-Russian ambassador, which became part of the FBI's investigation.

Biden's likely attorney general candidates aren't known to have such entanglements.

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