Ex-FBI Informant Charged With Lying About Bidens Had Russian Intelligence Contacts, Prosecutors Say

LAS VEGAS (AP) -- A former FBI informant charged with making up a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and a Ukrainian energy company had contacts with Russian intelligence-affiliated officials, prosecutors said Tuesday.

Prosecutors revealed the alleged contact as they urged a judge in Las Vegas to keep Alexander Smirnov behind bars while he awaits trial. But U.S. Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts allowed Smirnov to be released from custody on electronic GPS monitoring.

He is accused of falsely telling his FBI handler that executives with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid Hunter and Joe Biden $5 million each around 2015 -- a claim that became central to the Republican impeachment inquiry in Congress.

Smirnov, 43, hid his face and did not speak to reporters Tuesday night when he walked out of the courthouse with his lawyers and girlfriend at his side. He wore a GPS monitor on his left ankle and had changed into street clothes and out of the yellow jail garb he had worn in court.

Defense attorney David Chesnoff said he looks forward to defending Smirnov at trial.

According to prosecutors, Smirnov admitted in an interview after his arrest last week that "officials associated with Russian intelligence were involved in passing a story" about Hunter Biden. They said Smirnov's contacts with Russian officials were recent and extensive, and said Smirnov had planned to meet with one official during an upcoming overseas trip.

The White House didn't immediately comment Tuesday.

Prosecutors said Smirnov, who holds dual U.S.-Israeli citizenship, falsely reported to the FBI in June 2020 that executives associated with Burisma paid millions of dollars to Hunter and Joe Biden in 2015 or 2016.

But Smirnov had only routine business dealings with the company starting in 2017 and made the bribery allegations after he "expressed bias" against Joe Biden while he was a presidential candidate, according to prosecutors.

He is charged with making a false statement and creating a false and fictitious record. The charges were filed in Los Angeles, where he lived for 16 years before relocating to Las Vegas two years ago.

Smirnov's claims have played a major part in the Republican effort in Congress to investigate the president and his family, and helped spark what is now a House impeachment inquiry into Biden. Democrats called for an end to the probe after the Smirnov indictment came down last week, while Republicans distanced the inquiry from his claims and said they would continue to "follow the facts."

Hunter Biden is expected to give a deposition next week.

The Burisma allegations became a flashpoint in Congress as Republicans pursuing investigations of President Biden and his family demanded the FBI release the unredacted form documenting the allegations. They acknowledged they couldn't confirm if the allegations were true.