Biden’s Commerce Dept. silent on whether Hunter Biden’s former business partner will remain on advisory board
FIRST ON FOX: The U.S. Department of Commerce is staying silent on whether any action has been taken to remove a business executive from President Biden's Advisory Council on Doing Business in Africa (PAC-DBIA), after it was revealed he had previously worked as a senior adviser to Hunter Biden’s now-defunct investment firm.
Fox News Digital previously reported that John Nevergole, co-founder and CEO of the Philadelphia-based project development firm ABD Group, was tapped earlier this year to serve another term on the PAC-DBIA after he had previously strategized with Hunter on brokering multiple business deals in Western Africa while his father was vice president.
On July 14, U.S. Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo reappointed Nevergole and 23 others to serve two-year terms on the PAC-DBIA from 2022 to 2024. Nevergole served his first term during the Trump administration after being appointed by then-Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross.
Nevergole and ABD Group Executive Chairman Mohamed Keita, the son-in-law of former Malian President Amadou Toumani Toure, co-founded ABD Group over 15 years ago, and they currently promote their company as a 'trusted partner to investors, multi-national firms and African governments' with 'over $2.5 billion USD of investment across the continent.'
'Today ABD Group has a presence on the ground to develop projects in every major market in West, Central, East, and Southern Africa. Partners include Fortune 500 companies and the world’s largest emerging market investors,' the firm's website reads. An archived version of the ABD website highlights that they were 'happy to have worked with' China’s state-owned China Development Bank and China Airport Construction Corporation (CACC), among other corporations. CNN Philippines reported in 2020 that the state-owned CACC was one of the subsidiaries of the China Communications Construction Company that had been 'blacklisted' by the Trump administration.
An archived version of the website also shows that Hunter Biden was listed as a member of ABD’s board of advisers for several years until his bio was removed sometime between Jan. 23 and May 29 in 2019, according to the Wayback Machine. While Nevergole was serving as the CEO of ABD, he was simultaneously serving as a senior adviser to Rosemont Seneca Advisors as early as 2012. However, it appears that his association with Rosemont Seneca in his ABD bio was erased from the website sometime shortly after March 2019.
Nevergole’s relationship with Hunter Biden dates back to at least 2011, according to emails reviewed and verified by Fox News Digital. In an Aug. 5, 2011, email chain, Eric Schwerin, then-president of Hunter's Rosemont Seneca Advisors, informed Hunter that Nevergole had requested to split a retainer fee 70/30 for helping to broker a deal between Rosemont and Brazilian construction giant OAS.
After Hunter pushed back on arrangement, Schwerin, who was also a member of ABD’s board of advisers for several years, argued, 'So, I am OK with 70/30.… Mainly because I think the relationship can bear fruit in other areas down the line, e.g. in Africa if we choose to focus there.'
A few years later, Schwerin sent an email to Hunter on May 29, 2014, saying he had 'talked to John Nevergole yesterday and he said you had mentioned to him you wanted to discuss natural gas at some point.'
At the time, Hunter had just been appointed to serve as a board member for the Ukrainian oil and gas company Burisma Holdings, for which he has received intense scrutiny over for several years, prompting him to later admit that he had used 'poor judgment' and that he would not join the board again if he could do things over.
'Not sure if it was Burisma related but he wanted me to tell you that he and Mohammed are really expanding their staff in Ivory Coast and Mozambique, two countries with energy resources,' Schwerin wrote in the email, referring to Nevergole's business partner Mohamed Keita.
Later that same day, Nevergole sent an email to Hunter and Schwerin listing 'potential gas opportunities for discussion,' including in Equatorial Guinea, Cote d'Ivoire, Mozambique, Ghana and Angola. 'Please let me know the thoughts on the above and if Burisma would be interested to explore any further,' Nevergole added.
Days before Christmas 2014, Nevergole emailed Hunter and said he was 'looking forward to 2015 being a successful year for Rosemont and ABD and for us expanding our work together' and added, 'Let's make it a profitable year.'
In April 2015, Nevergole emailed Hunter and Schwerin about a trip he would be taking the following month to Beijing to 'meet with funds and investors to further talks about putting together investment for Africa and also Latin America' and asked whether they had any contacts they would recommend, prompting Schwerin to respond, 'We will connect you with our guys over in China.' Less than a week later, Schwerin introduced Nevergole to BHR Managing Director Xin Wang, saying, 'I am partners with Hunter Biden and I know Jim Bulger reached out to you about meeting with a colleague and good friend of ours, John Nevergole.'
'I believe John will be in Beijing on May 4th and available to meet, but I have copied him on this email so you and John can coordinate directly,' Schwerin continued. 'Thanks in advance to you and the BHR team for agreeing to see John and his colleague next week.'
BHR formed in 2013 when the Boston-based Thornton Group LLC, a firm that joined forces with Hunter’s Rosemont firm, launched its joint-venture with Chinese investment firm Bohai Capital.
Wang thanked Schwerin for the introduction and said it was a 'pleasure to meet the both of you over email and I look forward to our in person meeting in the coming week.'
A day after the May 4th meeting, Nevergole emailed Wang to thank her for meeting with him, writing, 'It sounds like BHR is doing great things and that there could also be synergies to explore. I will send you more information on opportunities that could potentially be a fit when I have it for your review. Look forward to meeting again sometime soon, either in Beijing or in US.'
Nevergole would then email Hunter and Schwerin on May 6 and inform them that it 'was good to meet BHR' and that he would like to 'catch up' when he returned to the U.S. so he could give 'feedback of the trip overall, what we are thinking, and go over some ideas on how we can work together overall on the China initiative.'
This exchange wasn’t the only time China came up in discussions with Nevergole. Two months earlier, Nevergole had offered Schwerin advice to pass along to Hunter before a planned trip to China.
'In terms of Hunter's trip to China I would say one immediate thing is if there are any large firms, typically the state owned construction companies, that they know who we should try to meet when we go to China,' Nevergole wrote in a February 2015 email. 'These groups generally bring funding from China Exim to fund the African government on a project to be done by the China state owned construction firm.'
'For example this is what we are doing with CACC (China Airport Construction Corppration) and what we do with Samsung with Kexim money,' Nevergole added. 'They work with us to put the deal together in Africa.'
Nevergole would send an email to Hunter, Schwerin and Keita in November of that same year, laying out the terms for ABD’s 'ongoing relationship' with Rosemont, as well as future steps to meet with the presidents of Cameroon and Senegal, which he said would help with 'advancing the deals.'
Emails also show that Nevergole served a key role in facilitating meetings with foreign diplomats and world leaders. For example, Hunter was scheduled to meet with the ambassadors of Senegal and Cameroon in D.C. on Nov. 23, 2015, according to emails among Nevergole, Schwerin and Hunter’s scheduler, but it is unclear what was discussed at the meetings. Nevergole did not respond to Fox News Digital’s inquiry about the meetings.
However, an email from Nevergole to Schwerin about two weeks earlier sheds some light on what the discussions likely entailed, including introducing the deals they were working on in Senegal and having 'the Ambassador of Senegal give the feedback to the President.'
'Ambassador can then coordinate a first meeting between the President, Mohamed and I,' Nevergole said. 'Then at a later date all of us can schedule a subsequent meeting with the President.'
Nevergole laid out a similar outline for the meeting with the Ambassador of Cameroon.
A couple months after then-Vice President Biden left office in January 2017, Schwerin sent an email to Hunter, saying that Rosemont held equity in '30% of ABD’s interest in six energy, infrastructure and healthcare projects in Western Africa.' It is unclear whether Hunter still has an equity stake in those projects or whether there were other ABD projects that he was invested in.
In November 2021, after President Biden took office, ABD announced that Nevergole had signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Senegal’s state-run Ageroute to 'develop, finance, and construct two bridges to ensure trade between Senegal and its neighbors remains easily accessible.'
The Nov. 22, 2021, signing took place in Senegal and featured remarks from U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
'I believe that the ripple effects will be felt throughout Senegal. Better infrastructure can create jobs, can connect more people to cities, can improve public safety, and can increase resilience against climate change,' Blinken said at the event, according to an ABD press release.
Nevergole said in the release that 'President Biden's Build Back Better world initiative is delivering on its promise of driving investment in Africa, building new markets for American companies, and creating jobs at home and abroad.'
'We're grateful for Secretary Blinken's attendance at today's MOU signing, alongside Minister Hott, on his first trip to Africa,' Nevergole said at the time. 'This project will ensure the vitality of a key trade corridor between Senegal and its neighboring countries while supporting hundreds of jobs in both Senegal and the U.S.'
Nevergole attended a similar MOU signing in Senegal during the Trump administration in early 2020.
Notably, the majority of the advisory council’s members under Trump lost their spots under Biden. Of the 26 members appointed by Ross, only eight, including Nevergole, were reappointed by Raimondo. A Department of Commerce spokesperson pointed Fox News Digital to multiple resources outlining the process for applying for the council, including the application that Nevergole would have had to fill out. The presidential advisory board is not considered part of the federal government, and the appointees are unpaid.
In previous reporting, a spokesperson for the Department of Commerce told Fox News Digital that Nevergole's 'prior association with Hunter Biden played no role in' his reappointment by Raimondo.
The department did not respond to an inquiry Thursday.
Neither the White House, Nevergole, Schwerin nor Hunter's lawyer responded to Fox News Digital's requests for comment.
Fox News Digital’s Cameron Cawthorne contributed to this report.
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