Ex-FBI informant charged with lying about Biden and Hunter is ordered to stay in jail ahead of trial

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The former FBI informant Alexander Smirnov, who has been charged with lying about Joe and Hunter Biden, has been ordered by a California judge to stay in jail.

The 43-year-old appeared in a federal court in Los Angeles on Monday after being transported to the Golden State from Las Vegas, Nevada.

“There is nothing garden variety about this case,” Judge Otis Wright said on Monday, the AP reported. “I have not changed my mind. The man will be remanded pending trial.”

His court hearing comes after he was arrested twice within a week, being detained by US Marshals on Thursday morning at his lawyer’s office in Las Vegas.

The hearing was called to determine if prosecutors were correct in arresting him just two days after he was released on an order from a magistrate judge, who required Mr Smirnov to hand over his passports and wear a monitoring device.

Alexander Smirnov, second from right, leaves the courthouse on 20 February 2024, in Las Vegas (AP)
Alexander Smirnov, second from right, leaves the courthouse on 20 February 2024, in Las Vegas (AP)

The prosecution has argued that his detention was needed to protect national security and stop him from fleeing abroad.

Last week, prosecutors indicted Mr Smirnov in California, where Special Counsel David Weiss has also brought tax charges against Hunter Biden in the state.

When an attorney for the special counsel argued at the initial detention hearing on Tuesday that Mr Smirnov could flee to Russia, the judge agreed with the defence team.

“My guess is at this stage he probably thinks that’s not the most attractive place to go if he was in fact inclined to go hide somewhere,” the judge stated at the time.

Mr Smirnov, who has claimed to have connections to Russian intelligence, has been charged with making up a bribery scheme worth millions involving the Bidens. He allegedly told the FBI that executives from Burisma, a Ukrainian energy company, paid Hunter and Joe Biden $5m each around 2015 – a claim that lit a fire under the Republican efforts to impeach the president.

Judge Wright said during the hearing that he would be unable to set conditions that would make sure that Mr Smirnov would not try to flee.

In an order unsealed on Friday, Judge Wright wrote that Mr Smirnov’s attorneys working to have him released pending trial was “likely to facilitate his absconding from the United States”.

As they argued that the judge should keep Mr Smirnov in jail, the prosecution said that he had told the FBI that he had plenty of contact with Russian intelligence officials, saying that the officials passed information regarding Hunter Biden to him.

Prosecutors said Mr Smirnov, who is a citizen of both the US and Israel, had made plans to travel abroad to several countries in the days following his initial arrest on 14 February where he claimed to be meeting with people connected to foreign intelligence services.

Mr Smirnov has not yet entered a plea to the charges. But his attorneys have noted that they will defend him at trial. His lawyers noted while arguing for his release that he has no criminal history and that he has close connections to the US, such as a partner who lives in Las Vegas.

When Mr Smirnov was released in the city last week with the use of GPS monitoring by US Magistrate Judge Daniel Albregts, the judge said he was worried about Mr Smirnov’s access to what the prosecution says is a sum as large as $6m, but the judge added that federal guidelines state that he had to use “the least restrictive conditions” leading up to a trial.

Mr Smirnov’s attorneys filed an emergency petition with the 9th US Circuit Court of Appeals, arguing that Judge Wright didn’t have the power to order that Mr Smirnov remain in detention. The attorneys also criticised what they viewed as bias from the judge when he said the attorneys may be working to help their client flee. The petition was rejected on Sunday night, meaning that Judge Wright could stay on the case and the hearing on Monday could go ahead.

When Mr Smirnov made the problematic claim about the Bidens in June 2020, he had already been an informant for more than 10 years. Beginning in 2017, Mr Smirnov had basic business dealings with Burisma, court filings state. There’s no evidence that the president ever took bribes or acted in a corrupt fashion.