Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky isn’t the only one demanding more military assistance from President Biden to protect Kyiv from Russian forces. So too is a close Delaware friend and financial backer of Biden, who owns several luxury car dealerships around the Ukrainian capital.
By sending billions of dollars in weapons and other military aid to help defend Ukraine, Biden also is securing the investments of millionaire car magnate John Hynansky, a Ukrainian American and longtime supporter of the president.
Over the course of Biden’s political career, Hynansky and his family have contributed more than $100,000 to his campaigns, including $8,000 in 2020, Federal Election Commission records show. Hynansky family members have been guests at the White House, and Hynansky has floated hundreds of thousands of dollars in loans to Biden family members, property records show. Hynansky’s son, Michael, who helps run his car empire, lent the use of his Lear jet to Biden when he was a senator.
Since Russia started shelling the area around Kyiv in February 2022, the U.S. government has spent $77 billion to help Ukraine rebuild and repel future attacks.
Government ethics watchdogs say the president’s friendship poses a potential conflict of interest that demands a full accounting of how the massive foreign aid, which includes open-ended humanitarian and economic assistance, has been used and who has benefited from it. On the military side, moreover, billions of dollars have gone to unspecified areas, such as “security,” “intelligence,” and “training.” In the past, Hynansky has supplied police cars and ambulances in several regions of Ukraine.
The Biden administration helped Hynansky’s team in Ukraine prepare for the invasion, including placing calls to his top executive in Kyiv 13 days in advance of Russian tanks crossing the border. It has sent billions of dollars to help rebuild war-torn cities where Hynansky operates the largest share of the country’s car showrooms and service centers specializing in Porsches, Jaguars, Land Rovers, and Bentleys, among other non-American brands he imports.
Although supporting Ukraine is a policy with widespread – though not universal – bipartisan support in Washington, the president’s close relationship with Hynansky illustrates larger ethical questions that have long surrounded Biden and his family members, who often have financial interests directly affected by policies he endorses. While serving as President Obama’s point man in Ukraine in 2015, Biden famously demanded the firing of a prosecutor who was investigating a natural gas company, Burisma, that was paying his son Hunter $80,000 per month to serve on its board. Recent revelations of lucrative dealings with concerns tied to China’s Communist government while Joe Biden was both in and out of office have also raised questions about his current policy toward Beijing.
At a time Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas’s relationship with a generous billionaire is fueling complaints among Democrats about money and politics, Biden’s friendship with Hynansky also raises red flags.
Helping My Very Good Friend
The connection between Joe Biden and Hynansky’s business ventures dates back to 2009 when the then-vice president made his first visit to Ukraine. In a speech in Kyiv to government officials, Biden singled out Hynansky for praise, noting that he had just had breakfast with “my very good friend, John Hynansky.” (The previous year, Hynansky had individually contributed more than $33,000 to the Obama-Biden ticket primarily through the Obama Victory Fund, according to FEC records.)
Within months of his hobnobbing with the vice president and local officials in the Ukrainian capital, Hynansky scored his first international development loan from the U.S. Overseas Private Investment Corporation, or OPIC, a federal body whose board was appointed by President Obama. Hynansky used the $2.5 million to break ground on a new headquarters and massive distribution center outside Kyiv that prepares 8,000 cars for sale every year. In 2012, Hynansky landed another $20 million in OPIC funding to expand his dealership facilities, federal records show, helping him corner roughly 25% of the luxury car market in Ukraine.
“The proceeds of the loan will be used to construct and operate two new, state-of-the-art dealership facilities for Porsche and Land Rover/Jaguar automobiles, and repay any outstanding balance of an existing OPIC loan,” according to a 2012 OPIC financing document.
The terms of the OPIC loans state that all cars sold at his dealerships would be imported from Europe, not the United States, which meant that American-based automakers would not benefit from the taxpayer-backed venture. Under “U.S. economic impact,” the loan summary states that the jobs created from the deal would be created in “the host country, Ukraine,” not America. The terms of the loan also deferred Hynansky’s paying the principal on the loans for almost three years during construction, according to the OPIC document, which called the deferment a “grace period.”
The next year, acting as Obama’s point man in Ukraine, Biden pushed for the ouster of what he called the country’s Russia-friendly president and helped set up a coalition government in 2014 while promising millions in aid for the Ukraine energy industry. That same year, Hunter Biden, who is a close childhood friend of Hynansky’s daughter, Alexandra (who was listed as a sponsor on the OPIC loans), was appointed to the board of Burisma.
In 2015, Joe Biden’s younger brother, James, and his sister-in-law, Sara Biden, became overextended financially after purchasing a six-bedroom, four-bathroom beach house plus guest house on Keewaydin Island, FL, which was dubbed “The Biden Bungalow” after the vice president spent time there as well. Owing almost $700,000 in tax liens and contractor debts, the Bidens turned to Hynansky for help in lieu of a traditional lender. The car dealer came to the rescue with loans totaling $900,000.
The bailout occurred as Hynansky’s powerful American pal oversaw U.S. policy in Ukraine, and as OPIC authorized new loans allowing his company to build a new 7,300-square-foot Porsche dealership along the highway that connects downtown Kyiv to the Boryspil International Airport.
Mortgage records initially reported the Bidens’ lender as “1018 PL, LLC,” obscuring Hynansky as the source of the loans. But the corporate entity is controlled by Hynansky, a 2018 document would later reveal.
The Bidens sold the waterfront house in 2018, and Hynansky released his lien on the property. However, Hynansky did not acknowledge full payment and satisfaction of the loans, according to the details laid out in documents recorded in Collier County, Fla.
Attempts to reach James Biden for comment were unsuccessful.
In August 2021, Hynansky secured a $24 million loan from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) to expand its Ukraine operations into electric vehicles, including building new Renault and Volvo dealerships in Lviv. The U.S. is a founding member of EBRD and provides 10% of its capital. The Biden administration has been pushing such “green” deals.
“In the near future, we intend to increase our presence on the Ukrainian market,” Hynansky’s top official in Ukraine, Petro Rondiak, said at the time.
The White House did not respond to queries about the president’s relationship with Hynansky.
Though Biden is silent about his actions in Ukraine as they concern Hynansky and his businesses there, he has repeatedly denied that his son’s Burisma dealings influenced his official actions in Ukraine — which included handing over more than $50 million in U.S. support to assist the Ukrainian energy industry, an aid package Biden personally announced in Kyiv the month before Burisma hired his son in 2014.
Republicans are investigating whether those funds were intended to help his son’s business interests in Ukraine. Less explored is whether U.S. tax money has also been used to protect or boost Hynansky’s Ukrainian investments.
Paul Kamenar, counsel to the National Legal and Policy Center, a Washington watchdog group. said that in dealing with Ukraine, Biden increasingly is drawing suspicion he may be putting his own political fortunes ahead of the national interest.
Many of Hynansky’s dealerships ‒ organized under the Winner Group Ukraine ‒ are located around the Kyiv airport. Though the American head of Winner Group Ukraine fled the country after Russia’s invasion, the dealerships are still “operational,” according to a spokesperson at Hynansky’s headquarters in Delaware. All told, his Ukrainian subsidiary controls some 55 dealerships and service centers employing more than 800 workers.
Thanks to the shipment of U.S. weaponry ‒ including Stinger missiles, howitzers, and Abrams tanks ‒ properties around Kyiv airport are now secure enough that Biden was able to use the train station just 19 miles away to visit Zelensky during February’s anniversary of the invasion. And though Boryspil International Airport is still closed, Ukrainian forces have retaken strategically important suburbs of Kyiv near the airport.
Since taking control of the House, Republicans have threatened to curb aid to Ukraine and audit the massive funds the Biden administration and the Democratic-controlled Congress have funneled there.
Winner executives have been clamoring for more U.S. military aid and direct intervention by Biden and other Western leaders. Before the invasion, the company had reported its best year in Ukraine.
Rondiak, Hynansky’s top executive in Ukraine, has called for greater military intervention from America and the West, including setting up a “no-fly zone” over Ukrainian airspace. “Dear Western ally politicians,” he tweeted in December, “when will the gloves come off?”
Added Rondiak, “The flow of weapons must increase quickly.” He’s also called for a military counteroffensive “to punish Putin.”
Although car sales are down, he said virtually all of Hynansky’s “dealers are operating” in Ukraine thanks to Biden administration support. He also praised the State Department for calling him to warn him to leave Kyiv for his own safety two weeks ahead of the invasion.
U.S. Aid as Long as It Takes
Biden has pledged to keep sending U.S. funds to Ukraine “as long as it takes,” continuing indefinitely an already unprecedented spending stream. Support for Ukraine from other countries lags far behind the United States. Britain is providing less than 10% of what America is sending there, despite ranking second in total aid, according to Council on Foreign Relations data.
Kamenar suggested that a special inspector general may be needed to audit U.S. spending in Ukraine, similar to the one Congress created to monitor U.S. aid and reconstruction contracts in Afghanistan.
House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer said he suspects the kind of fraudulent and wasteful spending the Pentagon IG uncovered in Afghanistan “could be happening in Ukraine, where we are spending a significant amount of tax dollars.”
“I know some of the tax dollars are going for ammunition. I know some of it’s going for humanitarian aid,” Rep. Comer told CNN last week. “But we hear that not all of it is.”
Some administration critics say that Biden has done a poor job of explaining why supporting Ukraine is in America’s interests. Irrespective of that complaint, Biden’s financial entanglements with Hynansky muddy the waters – and have gone unreported in the news coverage about his intense focus on the embattled country.
Long before Hunter Biden landed a lucrative oil and gas deal in Ukraine, despite having no prior experience in Ukraine or the energy industry, Biden benefactor Hynansky began investing heavily in Ukraine — with Joe Biden’s help.