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Home / Joe Biden

LA judge rules ex-FBI informant who allegedly lied about Biden must remain in custody

By Fred Shuster

An ex-FBI informant who previously lived in Calabasas was ordered Monday to remain in federal custody pending trial on charges of obstructing justice and lying to investigators about the alleged business dealings of President Joe Biden and son Hunter.

Alexander Smirnov, 43, now a resident of Las Vegas, had asked the judge in downtown Los Angeles to grant him bail, but U.S. District Judge Otis D. Wright II said he could find no condition or combination of conditions that would ensure the defendant would appear for future court dates.

“I am not satisfied that there are conditions … to ensure that you will not flee the jurisdiction,” Wright said during the packed, hour-long hearing.

Smirnov, a dual U.S.-Israeli citizen, sat amid his attorneys handcuffed and wearing white jail clothing. Wright commented from the bench that the defendant was surrounded by “an awful lot of legal horsepower.”

Smirnov was first arrested Feb. 15 at Harry Reid International Airport in Las Vegas as he was returning from overseas. He was set free by a magistrate judge last Tuesday, but re-arrested two days later on a new warrant for the same charges. The warrant was signed by Wright, who is presiding over the federal criminal case.

Federal prosecutors argued during the hearing that Smirnov lied to his FBI handlers, whom he worked with for more than a decade, and should not be trusted to return to court if granted release. Smirnov, the government argued, has extensive contacts in Russia and elsewhere and has “access to over $6 million in liquid funds — more than enough money for him to live comfortably overseas for the rest of his life,” according to court papers.

Smirnov attorney David Chesnoff denied that his client would attempt to flee the country or otherwise try to escape prosecution. He told Wright that Smirnov has never been convicted of any crime, worked as a trusted, longtime informant for the government, and would be fully compliant with any conditions of release the court might set.

The judge rejected the argument.

“I am concerned about what appears to me is your practice or habit of making false statements,” Wright told the defendant.

Chesnoff responded: “The only false statements we are concerned with are the ones in the indictment.”

The 37-page, two-count indictment accuses Smirnov of making false statements to FBI agents in June 2020, when he allegedly told them about meetings with an executive from Burisma, the Ukrainian energy company which employed Hunter Biden as an attorney and later as a member of its corporate board.

He also allegedly told agents that the Burisma executives made $5 million payments to both Joe and Hunter Biden when Joe Biden was vice president, court papers show. Prosecutors strongly deny the allegations against the Bidens.

Smirnov faces a sentence of up to three years behind bars if convicted as charged, his attorney told the court.

Arguing against pretrial release, Assistant U.S. Attorney Leo J. Wise alleged that Smirnov had “betrayed” the government’s trust, did not disclose his access to over $6 million, and did not divulge his contacts in foreign countries. Wise also said that the defendant had no substantial ties to Nevada, despite living there.

“He cannot be trusted,” Wise told the court.

But Chesnoff argued that it was imperative that Smirnov be granted bond in order to help his defense attorneys work on the case.

Wise, though, said the charges were actually “fairly straightforward.”

At the conclusion of the hearing, the judge said there is “nothing garden-variety about this case,” and ordered Smirnov returned to the federal lockup.

“I have not changed my mind,” Wright said.

Hunter Biden faces federal charges related to an illegal purchase and possession of a gun, as well as nine tax-related charges in Los Angeles for his alleged failure to pay $1.4 million in taxes owed between 2016 and 2019, according to federal prosecutors. He has pleaded not guilty in both cases.

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