Chris Tigani, the former Delaware beer baron who went to jail for two years over corrupt campaign donations to Joe Biden, has spoken out for the first time to slam the lenient treatment of Hunter Biden at the hands of the same US attorney who locked him up.
It was during Tigani’s 2012 sentencing that then-First Assistant US Attorney David Weiss used the phrase “the Delaware Way” to describe “a form of soft corruption, intersecting business and political interests, which has existed in this state for years.”
But Tigani, 53, was the only one who paid the price.
“If you want to know why I went to jail and Hunter didn’t, it’s because my name is Tigani not Biden,” he says. “It’s pretty simple. If your name is Biden, then investigations last as long as they need to and end [in your favor].
“I don’t want anything to happen to Hunter to make me feel better. I only want fairness, but the justice system in this case certainly doesn’t appear to be fair.”
Weiss, the Delaware US attorney who closed off the five-year criminal investigation into the president’s son this week with a couple of tax misdemeanors and a gun charge, has had long experience of Biden family shenanigans in the incestuous state where Joe Biden has held public office since 1972.
The Tigani case was a textbook case of the “Delaware Way.” It all began when Tigani, the third-generation scion of wealthy Delaware liquor distributors, was invited to join the Biden family to watch the Democratic primary debate on Oct. 30, 2007, at Drexel University in Philadelphia, where Joe was vying with Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.
At the after-party at a Chestnut Street bar nearby, Hunter and his late brother, Beau Biden, sidled up to Tigani and asked him for $100,000 to pay for billboards in Iowa for their father’s ill-fated 2008 presidential run.
According to Tigani, the Biden brothers said, “Hey, we need $100,000 for billboards. Do you think you can help us with that?”
Tigani replied, “I don’t think I have that much, but I can probably do $75,000.”
Soon after, Joe approached him with a big smile and said in vague terms: “Hey, I hear you’re going to support our billboards program.”
Then Dennis Toner, Joe’s campaign finance director, came over to discuss logistics and, Tigani alleges, taught him what “bundling” was.
Toner asked: “How many people do you have there at your office you can trust.”
“All of them,” replied Tigani, who had 160 employees working at the family firm, N-K-S Distributors, where he was president.
Tigani, whose father had played football with Joe at the tony Archmere Academy, says he had no idea it was illegal to solicit his employees for campaign donations and then reimburse them from company funds.
He even listed the $74,000 in his ledger as “political donations.”
Tax raps in Delaware
Fast forward three years and the FBI was investigating a “sweetheart deal” Tigani had made with the state transportation department to lease a block of land for a warehouse.
Local Delaware media ran allegations that Tigani’s friendship with then-Gov. Ruth Ann Minner was behind the deal. He says it was all above board and no charges were ever brought.
One morning, Tigani was confronted at a gas station by two FBI agents who asked him about reimbursing his employees’ donations to the Biden campaign.
“It’s not illegal,” he said.
“Yeah, it is,” said the agents, and his world fell apart.
After combing through his business records, prosecutors added two tax charges to his election bundling offense, alleging that he had underreported his income and thus owed the IRS $92,000 for 2006 and a little over $100,000 in 2007.
“Mine were tax felonies,” he says. “Here’s the difference with Hunter. I paid my taxes, but then they said I didn’t pay enough. Hunter kept in excess of $1.5 million and didn’t even file a tax return, and I’m the one who went to jail.”
Hunter pleaded guilty this week to two federal misdemeanor counts of failing to pay his taxes in 2017 and 2018 and his gun-possession felony for lying on a background form is expected to be dropped if he is a good boy for a couple of years.
Tigani pleaded guilty and cooperated with the FBI by wearing a wire for four months to try to entrap local businesspeople, lobbyists and state politicians — but never a Biden.
“They thought I had bribed all these people because I had been to every fundraiser and a lot of good things had happened to our industry. But I never asked a politician to do anything. I had never ever done anything that would embarrass my mother or compromise my principles. We sell a legal product that is regulated by the state [so] I needed to have a good relationship with politicians.”
Despite the fact that he was in trouble for donating to Joe Biden’s campaign, Tigani says the FBI never asked him to record conversations with anyone in the Biden family. They even slapped down his suggestion that he go to Washington, DC, and try to get the then-vice president on record.
“They were not terribly interested in that part of the investigation,” he recalls. “They wanted to get other people . . . The FBI were political when they were investigating me.”
He suspects someone tipped off the Biden campaign that he was wearing a wire, because when he tried to get Toner to repeat what he had told him about bundling back in 2007, he hit a dead end: “I don’t know what you’re talking about,” said Toner on the phone, “and I don’t know who’s listening to this call.”
After that, the FBI took back the wire, ended the probe and unsealed his indictment.
The Bidens “were made to look like victims,” he says. “The newspapers made it sound like, ‘Oh, Chris was playing them.’ It was just crazy.”
When Tigani got out of jail, he found himself face to face with Joe Biden one Saturday in 2013 on the bucolic grounds of Tatnall prep school in Greenville, Del., where his children and the vice president’s grandchildren went.
Joe came over and gave Tigani the “big double-Biden handshake,” looked him in the eye and said “How is everything. I know it’s been tough for you.’ ”
As the Secret Service looked on in case Tigani “bore any ill will,” Biden expressed his sympathy “in a vague way” and then moved on.
For half a century as the senator for Delaware and then vice president, Joe Biden leveraged a quid pro quo system of cronyism and trading favors for political influence that he and his friends have spun as a cordial system of bipartisanship where everyone comes out a winner.
But as it turns out, the only winners are the Bidens.
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