The Biden administration raised some eyebrows Monday after it described the art and antiquities market as a hotbed of shady financial dealings — weeks after first son Hunter Biden’s work went on display in a Soho gallery.
The warning from the White House was part of its “Strategy on Countering Corruption,” which the administration described as “a comprehensive roadmap for how the United States will amplify its efforts domestically and internationally, with governmental and non-governmental partners, to prevent, limit, and respond to corruption and related crimes.”
“When government officials abuse public power for private gain, they do more than simply appropriate illicit wealth,” the introduction to the 38-page report reads, later adding: “As a fundamental threat to the rule of law, corruption hollows out institutions, corrodes public trust, and fuels popular cynicism toward effective, accountable governance.”
On page 24 of the report, the White House describes the art market as “especially vulnerable to a range of financial crimes.”
“Built-in opacity, lack of stable and predictable pricing, and inherent cross-border transportability of goods sold, make the market optimal for illicit value transfer, sanctions evasion, and corruption,” the report adds.
That section of the report was noted on Twitter by Walter Shaub, the former head of the US Office of Government Ethics and a persistent critic of the Biden administration from the left.
“The White House just issued a report flagging that money laundering is a problem in the… wait for it… art sale industry,” Shaub tweeted sarcastically.
In October, Shaub criticized White House press secretary Jen Psaki after she deflected The Post’s questions about whether the identity of buyers for Hunter Biden’s art would remain anonymous.
“These are legitimate questions,” Shaub tweeted at the time. “It’s disappointing to hear [Psaki] send a message that the WH thinks the public has no right to ask about ethics. After the last 4 years, these questions have never been more important. I know this isn’t a popular opinion, but this stuff matters.”
Shaub and other ethics experts have repeatedly warned that the sale of Hunter Biden’s art is likely to draw the interest of prospective buyers seeking to curry favor with his father’s administration.
“There is no ethics program in the world that can be built around the head of state’s staff working with a dealer to keep the public in the dark about the identities of individuals who pay vast sums to the leader’s family member for subjectively priced items of no intrinsic value,” Shaub tweeted in October. “If this were Trump, Xi [Jinping] or [Vladimir] Putin, you’d have no doubt whatsoever that this creates a vehicle for funneling cash to the first family in exchange for access or favors. Nor would you doubt that the appearance of monetizing the presidency was outrageous.”
Last month, Hunter Biden visited the Georges Bergès Gallery to celebrate the opening of his solo art show. Plans to open the exhibit to the public were canceled due to the controversy.
Republicans have called on Attorney General Merrick Garland to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate any sales of the first son’s work.
When a Post reporter asked Biden in October if he was concerned about potential corruption resulting from the sale of his son’s artwork, the president looked the reporter in the eyes and said: “You gotta be kidding me.”
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