President Biden warmly welcomed Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta to the White House on Thursday, whose family – like Biden’s – are accused of shady business ventures overseas.
Kenyatta and six relatives were recently exposed in the so-called Pandora Papers leak as owners of 13 offshore companies, one of which has $ 30 million in assets.
Neither man addressed the scandal during a brief press briefing, in which Biden called Kenyatta a champion of democracy, despite the International Criminal Court charging him with incitement to murder and to rape after a contested election.
“Thank you for your leadership in defending peace, security and democratic instincts in the region and in your country. You’re doing a hell of a job, ”Biden told Kenyatta in the Oval Office.
“Glad to have you here.
The Kenyan President said in English: “President Biden in a previous life visited Kenya where we had the opportunity to meet when he was Vice President … and it is truly a great pleasure and an honor to see you again.”
The closest Biden came to mentioning corruption when he said “we are also going to talk about financial transparency and accelerating economic growth.”
Neither president responded to journalists’ questions.
The White House said in a statement Tuesday that the meeting would address “the need to bring transparency and accountability to national and international financial systems” – echoing Kenyatta’s questionable turn on the leak.
The African leader said the leak could be an opportunity to “improve the financial transparency and openness we need in Kenya and around the world.”
Kenyatta’s alleged corruption overshadowed other issues leaders were due to discuss, including a US donation of 17 million doses of Johnson & Johnson’s unique COVID-19 vaccine to the African Union.
The initial White House announcement said Biden and Kenyatta “would also discuss efforts to defend democracy and human rights, advance peace and security, accelerate economic growth and tackle climate change.” .
The International Criminal Court has charged Kenyatta with crimes against humanity, including rape and murder, for allegedly organizing ethnic violence that left hundreds dead in the contested 2007 elections. The ICC drops the charges in 2014, claiming that the government of Kenya refused to cooperate.
Officials in the Biden administration said in a background call with reporters on Thursday that the White House had highlighted the possibility of talking about financial transparency because Kenyatta had mentioned it.
“The President took note of President Kenyatta’s statement that the publication of Pandora Papers will improve financial transparency and openness around the world,” a senior administration official said.
A reporter asked during the call, “Is the president afraid to give this great platform to someone who is deeply corrupt like President Kenyatta?”
The senior official said, “President Biden definitely engages with a range of leaders to push forward, you know, his foreign policy priorities, which absolutely include fighting corruption.”
White House press secretary Jen Psaki reacted on Wednesday when a Voice of America reporter told her that the meeting’s framing of priorities “is rich, given revelations in the Pandora Papers that the Kenyan president owned a whole network of offshore companies.
“Let me finish my answer,” Psaki chided when the reporter tried to insist. Psaki said that “that doesn’t mean you don’t meet people with whom you have disagreements [with]. “
The Biden family faces its own controversy involving the business ventures of first son Hunter Biden and the brothers of President Jim Biden and Frank Biden.
When Biden was vice president, Hunter Biden accepted a million-dollar-a-year position on the board of Ukrainian energy company Burisma, despite no relevant industry experience, while his father ran Ukrainian politics. of the Obama administration.
Hunter Biden still co-owns a Chinese investment firm that was formed 12 days after joining his father aboard Air Force Two for a December 2013 trip to Beijing, according to recently released trade documents. The Wall Street Journal reports that the company is co-owned by Chinese public entities.
Documents and photos from a laptop computer that belonged to Hunter Biden indicate that Joe Biden attended a dinner in Washington in 2015 with a group of his son’s associates, including a trio of Kazakhs and Russian billionaire Yelena Baturina and her husband, the former mayor of Moscow Yury. Luzhkov.
A Senate report released last year indicated that a company linked to Hunter Biden received $ 3.5 million from Baturina in 2014. A day after the 2015 dinner, Vadym Pozharskyi, a Burisma executive, sent an email to the second son at the time thanking him for the opportunity to meet his father.
A 2017 email retrieved from Hunter Biden’s laptop described a 10% layaway for “the big guy” in a possible deal involving a Chinese energy company. Hunter Biden’s former business partner Tony Bobulinski said Joe Biden was the “big guy.”