WASHINGTON (AP) — An FBI informant has been charged with lying to authorities about a multimillion-dollar bribery scheme involving President Joe Biden, his son Hunter and a Ukrainian energy company, a claim that is central to the Republican impeachment inquiry in Congress.

Alexander Smirnov falsely reported in June 2020 that executives associated with the Ukrainian energy company Burisma paid Hunter and Joe Biden $5 million each in 2015 or 2016, prosecutors said Thursday.

Smirnov said a Burisma executive had claimed to have hired Hunter Biden to “protect us, through his dad, from all kinds of problems,” prosecutors said.

Smirnov, 43, was indicted Wednesday on charges of making a false statement and creating a false and fictitious record. No attorney was immediately listed for him in court records. He was expected to make a first court appearance in Las Vegas, where he was arrested Wednesday after arriving from overseas, prosecutors said.

The informant’s claims have been central to the Republican effort in Congress to investigate the president and his family, and helped spark what is now a House impeachment inquiry into Biden.

Prosecutors say that Smirnov had contact with Burisma executives, but it was routine and actually took place took place in 2017, after President Barack Obama and Biden, his vice president, had left office — when Biden would have had no ability to influence U.S. policy.

Smirnov “transformed his routine and unextraordinary business contacts with Burisma in 2017 and later into bribery allegations against Public Official 1, the presumptive nominee of one of the two major political parties for President, after expressing bias against Public Official 1 and his candidacy,” the indictment said.

He repeated some of the false claims when he was interviewed by FBI agents in September 2023 and changed his story about others and “promoted a new false narrative after he said he met with Russian officials,” prosecutors said.

If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 25 years in prison.

The charges were filed by Justice Department special counsel David Weiss, who has separately charged Hunter Biden with firearm and tax violations. Hunter Biden’s legal team did not immediately return a message seeking comment.

The allegations became a flashpoint in Congress as Republicans pursing investigations of President Joe 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.

House Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer, R-Ky., had subpoenaed the FBI last year for the so-called FD-1023 document as Republicans deepened their probe of Biden and his son Hunter ahead of the 2024 presidential election.

Working alongside Comer, Republican Sen. Chuck Grassley of Iowa released an unclassified document that Republicans at the time claimed was significant in their investigation of Hunter Biden. It added to information that had been widely aired during Donald Trump’s first impeachment trial involving Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani’s efforts to dig up dirt on the Bidens ahead of the 2020 election. The White House said at the time that the claims had been debunked for years.

The impeachment inquiry into Biden over his son’s business dealings has lagged in the House, but the panel is pushing ahead with its work.

Hunter Biden is expected to appear before the committee later this month for an interview.

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