Ex-Flynn business partner charged in Turkish lobbying case
- Author: Joey Payne Dec 18, 2018,
Dec 18, 2018, 0:41
Special counsel Robert Mueller, who is investigating whether members of the Trump campaign collaborated with the Russian government to influence the outcome of the 2016 presidential election, recently recommended that Flynn avoid jail time due to his extensive cooperation with investigators.
Kian, who was partner at Flynn Intel Group, appeared in court, while Alptekin - a Turkish businessman who allegedly paid both Kian and Flynn - is not in the country, according to the Washington Post. The indictment says that the Justice Department contacted Flynn about the November 8 op-ed, asking whether he and others had "an obligation to register as an agent of a foreign government".
The Department of Justice on Monday unsealed the indictments of 66-year-old Californian Bijan Rafiekian (also known as Bijan Kian) and 41-year-old Turkish-Dutch national Kamil Ekim Alptekin.
The men worked for the company Flynn formed after he left government service.
Court documents say that Mr Rafjekian and Mr Alptekin "conspired covertly and unlawfully to influence US politicians and public opinion concerning a Turkish citizen living in the United States whose extradition was then being sought by the Government of Turkey". In 2016, he wrote an editorial attacking Fethullah Gulen, a dissident cleric living in the United States who was accused by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan of masterminding a failed coup attempt against him.
Over the years, Erdogan has hired US public relations firms and lobbyists to generate negative press coverage of Gulen and pressure Washington for his extradition.
Alptekin is also charged with failing to register as a foreign agent and also making false statements. According to the indictment, Alptekin worked at the direction of the Turkish government, but the defendants worked to hide that fact. The new court papers say Turkish officials approved the budget for the lobbying campaign and received regular updates.
Alptekin used his Netherlands-based private company to pay "Company A", which is believed to be Michael Flynn's lobbying firm Flynn Intel Group. Alptekin made the payments from an account in Turkey.
The charges against Kian and Alptekin were revealed in a Virginia courtroom on Monday after Mueller referred the case to state prosecutors. FARA violations carry a penalty of up to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine.