WASHINGTON — Hunter Biden insisted on knowing who bought his art when he started selling it, an “unusual” instruction that was later retracted, his gallery director told House investigators, according to a transcript of an interview reviewed by NBC News. .
Hunter Biden was the only artist represented by George Bergès to make the request, Bergès testified before the House Oversight and Judiciary committees before the condition was withdrawn in September 2021 after months of public scrutiny. The gallery director’s testimony came as part of a House Republican inquiry into President Joe Biden.
Bergès said there was never any discussion with his buyers about political favors from the president or the White House.
The timeline for the change raises questions about the Biden White House statements it’s over Ethical safeguards surrounding sales that attract the attention of art world insiders and good governance experts. It also contradicts the White House’s assertions that it does not know the identity of Hunter Biden’s collectors.
According to Berges, he was “surprised” report In the summer of 2021, “White House officials [had] Without ever talking to the White House, Hunter helped broker a deal that would create a firewall between Biden and his buyers.
He was Biden’s press secretary at the time described A ‘system’ that allows Hunter Biden to sell his business ‘within reasonable guarantees’ speaking Journalists said, “He won’t know, we won’t know who bought his art.” Later, press secretary clarified that it wasn’t the White House itself that helped create the arrangement.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Bergès interview raises new questions about Hunter Biden’s art sale as a potential means of paying off the president’s son’s debts to Hollywood lawyer Kevin Morris. NBC News informed Morris began advising Hunter in 2020 before arranging to pay nearly $2 million in unpaid tax liabilities to the IRS on his behalf.
Describing the deal with Morris, Bergès said Hunter would have to discuss the terms of the sale with his friend before the deal was sealed. “I think they had an agreement … he must have known he was the buyer because usually the gallery wrote the check for the artist’s commission, but I didn’t,” Bergès told investigators.
After the contract was renegotiated, Bergès said there would be nothing preventing the buyer from informing Hunter Biden that they had purchased a piece.
The gallery director said he no longer represents Hunter, but they are close and talk several times a week, with Berges at one point describing him as “one of my best friends.”
Morris, who purchased $875,000 worth of Hunter’s art through a business entity in January 2023, paid the gallery director a 40% commission while planning to settle the balance directly with Hunter, Bergès testified.
He described Morris as Hunter Biden’s greatest collector.
Bergès told Congress that he did not know if the gallery had provided tax documents showing Morris’ $525,000 payment to Hunter Biden. He also recalled seeing a piece of art at Morris’ home that the gallery director had not sold, indicating that Morris had purchased it elsewhere, perhaps directly from Hunter.
Last week, Morris’ attorney wrote in a letter to Oversight Committee Chairman James Comer that Morris had not decided how to pay for Hunter Biden’s artwork. He is still considering a direct payment or writing off the credits and that will depend on the advice of his tax advisers. has been obtained By NBC News.
Hunter Biden last week he pleaded not guilty to nine tax-related charges, including three felonies, related to his business activities from 2016 to 2020.
Bergès said another recipient Hunter Biden knows is prominent Democratic donor Elizabeth Hirsh Naftali, who bought the White House. destination last year. She is the great-aunt of 4-year-old Abigail Eden, the first American hostage released by Hamas in a post-Oct. 7 prisoner exchange.
Although Berges met Hirsh Naftali in 2019 and began working to sell Hunter’s artwork, he made his first purchase in February 2021, just weeks after Joe Biden’s inauguration. In December 2022, Hirsh bought the second part of Naftali Hunter. After attending one of Biden’s art exhibitions, he bought his artwork for a total of $94,000.
In a letter to Congress last year, Hirsh Naftali’s lawyer said he had “done nothing wrong” and that his White House appointment to the US Commission on American Heritage Abroad was not related to the purchase of his artwork and that he came to the then-House. Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s recommendation.
Bergès said Hunter Biden learned his identity through press reports.