The federal investigation into the tax affairs of Hunter Biden, the son of US president-elect Joe Biden, in part focuses on his business links to China, two prominent media outlets have reported.
The Associated Press and The Washington Post both wrote about the probe’s China aspect after the younger Mr Biden revealed the existence of the investigation in a statement on Wednesday.
Both outlets also said that subpoenas were due to be served this week on Hunter Biden and others, citing an unnamed person familiar with the probe.
The investigation is being led by the US Justice Department, complicating Mr Biden’s plans to pick a nomination for the US attorney general position.
Mr Biden, the US president-elect who will enter the White House on January 20, has previously stressed the importance of the US attorney general being politically independent.
News of the probe is also likely to increase tensions between the outgoing Trump administration and the incoming Biden team, a transition that has already been fraught given Donald Trump‘s refusal to concede.
The investigation was widely reported to have begun in late 2018. The focus of the probe and any allegations being looked into are not known.
Investigators reportedly were careful not to take steps that could make their probe become public before the election so as to avoid the perception of political interference.
There is no suggestion Mr Biden, the president-elect, is being investigated. News of the investigation unexpectedly broke on Wednesday when Hunter Biden released a statement saying he had learned about the probe the day before.
He said: “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, 50, is one of Mr Biden’s two sons. The other, Beau Biden, was a rising political star in the Democratic Party before he died from cancer in 2015.
Hunter Biden has spoken in the past about his struggles with alcohol addiction, drug abuse and debt.
The nature of his past business activity was a regular focus of attacks and allegations from the Trump campaign and its surrogates during the presidential race.
Mr Trump last year became only the third US president to be impeached when he urged the Ukrainian president to investigate Hunter Biden and Joe Biden over their actions in Ukraine.
Hunter Biden had served on the board of Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, and reportedly received a substantial salary, while his father was shaping US policy towards the country.
The allegation of any inappropriate connection between the two roles was unproven. Both Bidens vigorously denied any wrongdoing. Mr Trump was ultimately acquitted by the US Senate.
Regarding China, Hunter Biden and some associates were at one point involved in negotiations about a joint venture with a Chinese energy and finance company. The deal fizzled out.
A Republican-controlled Senate committee later claimed in a report that $100,000 was transferred from a subsidiary of the company to a law firm controlled by Hunter Biden and that the transaction was flagged as suspicious.
Hunter Biden’s response to that allegation is unknown. The report, released before the election in an apparent attempt to damage the Democratic campaign, ultimately concluded no wrongdoing by Mr Biden, the former US vice president.
Both Hunter Biden and his father have consistently rejected suggestions of any wrongdoing over the former’s business activities.
After news of the investigation broke Mr Trump tweeted a quote from a columnist saying “10 per cent of voters would have changed their vote if they knew about Hunter Biden”.
A statement issued from the Biden transition said: “President-elect Biden is deeply proud of his son, who has fought through difficult challenges, including the vicious personal attacks of recent months, only to emerge stronger.”