Federal prosecutors have accused two business partners of the former US national security advisor of illegal lobbying on behalf of Turkey. The case stems in particular from the investigation of the special prosecutor Robert Mueller on Russia.
Prosecutors in Alexandria, Virginia, have accused Michael Flynn’s former business partner, Bijan Kian (also known as Bijan Rafiekian), and Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin of conspiring to influence “secretly and illegally” American politicians and failing to register as foreign lobbyists.
Their goal was to obtain the extradition of Muslim preacher Fethullah Gulen, accused by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of fomenting the failed coup of July 2016 . “The defendants have sought to discredit and delegitimize the Turkish citizen in the eyes of politicians and the public,” says the indictment.
Bijan Kian, who appeared in a federal court in Alexandria on Monday, is also accused of making false statements to the FBI. He was released on bail. His partner is still on the run.
According to the indictment, Ekim Alptekin, a businessman close to President Erdogan, worked under the direction of the Turkish government and kept him informed of the progress of the campaign, a fact concealed by the defendants .
The case was referred by Special Prosecutor Mueller, who is investigating Russia’s involvement and possible collusion with Donald Trump’s campaign team in the 2016 presidential election.
Probable collaboration of Michael Flynn
These accusations seem to testify to Michael Flynn’s cooperation with the law. As part of an agreement with Special Prosecutor Mueller, he admitted that a private consultancy contract he ran while working as an advisor for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was led by Turkish officials.
According to court documents, Bijan Kian was vice president of Michael Flynn’s company, the Flynn Intel Group. Ekim Alptekin contributed to the financing of Mr Flynn’s private consulting contract.
The Turkish government asked the United States to arrest and extradite Gülen in July 2016, but the US Department of Justice rejected his request for failing to comply with “the legal standards for “extradition”, according to the indictment.
The secret lobbying operation, called the “Truth Campaign”, and later “Operation Trust”, seems to have started shortly thereafter.
According to the court documents, e-mails evoke meetings between Ekim Alptekin and Turkish ministers, notably to talk about “the confidentiality, the budget and the scope of the contract,” state prosecutors.
During the summer, Bijan Kian, Ekim Alptekin and Michael Flynn also met in New York with two Turkish ministers to discuss the campaign against Mr. Gülen, according to court documents.
Michael Flynn wrote an opinion piece published in The Hill newspaper on November 8, 2016, the day of the presidential election. In his text entitled Turkey, our ally, is in crisis and needs our support , he described Fethullah Gülen as a “radical Islamist” and a “wicked Islamic mullah,” comparing him to Ayatollah Khomeney of Iran.
Mr. Flynn’s business received a total of $ 530,000 for his work.
Bijan Kian faces 15 years in prison and Mr. Alptekin, 35 years.
Flynn will know his sentence Tuesday in the investigation on Russia
These charges were unveiled one day before the sentence of Michael Flynn in a case related to the investigation of Special Prosecutor Mueller.
In December 2017, Michael Flynn admitted to lying to federal investigators about conversations with former Russian Ambassador Sergei Kislyak. He had also admitted that he had repeatedly violated laws requiring companies to register their work on behalf of foreign customers.
Earlier this month, prosecutors recommended the court’s leniency , citing its “substantial help” in the investigation of Russia, but also in other unspecified ongoing investigations, most likely that of Kian. and Alptekin.
The Turkish Foreign Ministry also said on Sunday that President Trump had assured his Turkish counterpart that his administration was doing what was necessary to extradite Fethullah Gülen .
According to the US press, the Trump administration would seek a legal way to justify its extradition to convince Ankara to stop pressuring Saudi Arabia over the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi , which the White House denied .
With New York Times , Associated Press and CNN news
Steve Petellis started working for Buffalo Morning Star in 2016. Steve grew up in a small town in northern Michigan. He studied chemistry in college, graduated, and married his wife one month later. He has been a proud New Yorker for the past 5 years. Steve covers politics and the economy. Previously he wrote for the Washington City Paper, The Hill newspaper, Slate Magazine, and The Public.