Ex-Flynn business partner charged in Turkish lobbying case

Department of Justice (DOJ) prosecutors charged two business associates of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn on December 17 with conspiring to lobby USA officials on behalf of Turkey and lying to cover up the alleged crime.

Flynn's former business partner, Bijan Rafiekian, was indicted on two criminal counts in the U.S. state of Virginia, including conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government, Reuters reported on Monday.

Flynn is expected to be sentenced this week and the Mueller team has insisted on its recommendation that Flynn receive no jail time given his cooperation during the investigation, CNN said.

According to the indictment, Kian, who served as a director of the US Export-Import Bank during the George W. Bush administration, sketched out a prospective anti-Gulen lobbying message to Alptekin that compared the Pennsylvania-based Gulen to Ayatollah Imam Khomeini, the once-exiled Iranian ayatollah who seized power in Iran after the overthrow of the shah in the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

Court documents show Rafiekian, Alptekin, and Flynn began discussing a potential project for Turkey in late July, 2016, shortly after the United States declined a Turkish request to extradite Gulen.

Though not mentioned in the indictment, ABC News has also previously reported that Flynn was also accused of raising the idea of kidnapping Gulen to be turned over to the Turkish government.

Kian, who is in the process of moving from California to Washington, D.C., was released on personal recognizance bond and must periodically notify his probation officer of his whereabouts.

Both Kian and Alptekin failed to register under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA), under which Flynn, the former White House national security adviser, also failed to register connected with his work with Turkey. Their efforts, prosecutors said, were directed by Kamil Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman with close ties to the country's leadership.

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Rafiekian made an appearance in federal court in Virginia.

The Alliance for Shared Values, a non-profit organization affiliated with Gulen, said in a statement on Monday that the indictments illustrated "just how far the Erdogan government will go in breaking U.S. law".

Rafiekian claimed that Alptekin did not want the anti-Gulen op-ed published and that the kickback payments to Inovo BV were refunds for lobbying activities that were not performed.

Flynn's op-ed was published in The Hill on November 8, the day Trump was elected. The indictment notes that Flynn's column uses identical or very similar language to that prepared by Kian in a draft op-ed.

"We all remember another quiet, bearded, elder cleric who sat under an apple tree in Neauphle-le-Chateau in the suburbs of Paris in 1978", Flynn wrote. Kian is scheduled to be formally arraigned on Tuesday.

"The arrow has left the bow!"

Kian and Alptekin's prosecution is led not by the special counsel but prosecutors with the Eastern District of Virginia. Flynn admitted that he lied to Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) investigators about his conversation during the presidential transition with then Russian Ambassador to the United States Sergey Kislyak.

  • Sonia Alvarado