BUFFALO, N.Y. — Bak USA was a shining star in the early days of the Buffalo startup scene when they officially opened in 2015.
The Michigan Avenue-based tech company was touted by state and local officials time and time again. Bak USA had a partnership with Microsoft, and you could even find their tablets in Microsoft retail stores.
The tech company received a hefty investment from Tom Golisano in May of 2015, when it was announced he was buying a 50% stake and infusing it with millions of dollars.
But in 2018, citing the tariffs imposed by President Trump, the company shut down.
Since then, there hasn’t been any significant mention of Bak USA in the news, until yesterday.
On Wednesday, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs issued a majority staff report titled "Hunter Biden, Burisma, and Corruption: The Impact on U.S. Government Policy and Related Concerns." On page 70 of the report it says this:
"Separately, between May 6, 2015, and Dec. 8, 2015, Baturina sent 11 wires in the amount of $391,968.21 to a bank account belonging to BAK USA LLC (BAK USA). Nine of the 11 transactions, totaling $241,797.14 were sent from Baturina’s accounts to a Rosemont Seneca Thornton bank account, which then transferred to the money to BAK USA. The 11 transactions all listed “Loan Agreement” in the payment details section. BAK USA was a startup technology company headquartered in Buffalo, N.Y., that produced tablet computers in cooperation with unnamed Chinese business partners. BAK USA filed for bankruptcy on March 29, 2019, with a reported loss of $39 million. These transactions were identified because of Baturina’s reported criminal activity."
The paragraph alleges that a Russian billionaire transferred nearly $400,000 to Bak USA through a Chinese bank account and did so between May 5, 2016, and December of that year.
"This is not true, it's false," said J.P. Bak, co-founder of Bak USA.
2 On Your Side spoke to Bak, and apparently 2 On Your Side are the only ones to ask him about this. Not just as a news organization, but including the investigators that worked on behalf of the committee that submitted the report.
Bak says no one from the federal government contacted him to discuss what Bak USA was accused of in the report.
"No, Zero," Bak said when we asked him if anyone from the government talked to him.
Bak USA LLC was formed in 2014, but a year later filed to dissolve that company and change the name. Coincidentally, that happened 5 days before these alleged wire transfers took place. The paperwork to dissolve the company was certified in July of 2015.
"When Tom Golisano bought the shares in, Bak USA, we closed down this New York entity, which was called bank USA LLC," Bak said. "We transferred the old activities to Bak USA Technologies Inc., which is a Delaware.
Here’s the timeline of the Bak USA History:
Bak told 2 On Your Side that he’s never even heard of the Russian billionaire referenced in the Senate report and they’ve never had Chinese partners.
"We have never received funds from for this particular person," Bak said. "But more importantly, the company that has been used was used for these transactions at that particular time did not exist."
So how did a U.S. Senate report allege that a Buffalo-based company received money from a Russian billionaire by way of a Chinese bank account?
The Senate report cites a piece of evidence marked 307 in the paragraph that mentions Bak USA. But the document is confidential.
That’s the only piece of evidence referenced.
2 On Your Side reached out to Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson to try and ask questions about the claims made in the report that he oversaw for the senate finance committee. His office did not return our call by the time this story was filed.
WGRZ asked J.P. Bak directly if he unequivocally denied any involvement with Russian billionaires, Chinese business partners and if the claims in the Senate report are false.
"Entirely," Bak said.