Flynn’s Business Partners Charged by US over Illegally Lobbying for Turkey
Two former business associates of Michael Flynn, who previously served as U.S. President Donald J. Trump‘s security adviser, have been charged with illegally lobbying as “unregistered agents” in order to extradite Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan‘s arch-enemy Fethullah Gulen, according to an announcement by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) on Monday.
The DOJ stated that the indictment in question was “charging Bijan Rafiekian, aka Bijan Kian, 66, of San Juan Capistrano, California, and Kamil Ekim Alptekin, 41, of Istanbul, and a Turkish national, with conspiracy, acting in the United States as illegal agents of the government of Turkey, and making false statements to the FBI”.
The charges against the pair were unsealed Monday in Virginia court, the New York Times reported. While Kian appeared before the court, Alptekin was not present. The Turkish businessman is reportedly in Turkey.
The two men are accused of being involved in a conspiracy to covertly influence U.S. politicians and public opinion against Gulen, a Turkish-Muslim preacher who is in self-exile in Pennsylvania.
The Turkish government has repeatedly asked the U.S. to extradite Gulen, whom it claims was behind a failed military coup attempt aiming to overthrow President Erdogan. Gulen denies the claim.
“The plot included using a company founded by Rafiekian and a person referred to as ‘Person A’ in the indictment. The company, referred to as ‘Company A’ in the indictment, provided services based upon Person A’s national security expertise,” the DOJ press release said.
According to the indictment, the company was intended to be used for delegitimizing Gulen in the eyes of the American public and U.S. politicians to pave the way for his extradition. The DOJ was reportedly resisting the idea of handing Gulen over to Turkey.
The DOJ statement also asserted that the government of Turkey “approved the budget for the project” and “gave directions to Rafiekian, Person A, and others at Company A”, however, the two men tried to hide Turkey’s involvement.
Rafiekian, a partner at Flynn Intel Group, faces up to five years in prison for conspiracy, and 10 years for acting in the U.S. as an illegal agent of the Turkish government.
Alptekin faces a maximum penalty of five years’ imprisonment for conspiracy, 10 years for acting as an agent of the Turkish government, and five years for each of the four false statements to the FBI.
On the other hand, shortly before the DOJ statement, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu told the media that the FBI has launched investigations into the Gulen network in 15 U.S. states and made arrests in New Jersey.
Cavusoglu said that Turkey requested the extradition of 84 individuals linked to Gulen during President Erdogan’s meeting with Trump on the sidelines of the G20 Summit in Argentina. The minister added that Trump assured Erdogan that his administration was working for the extradition of Gulen, also claiming that the FBI told the Turkish government that they “started to see the dark side of the group”.
Globe Post Turkey reached out to the FBI regarding the alleged investigation. “Adhering to DOJ policy, the FBI neither confirms nor denies an investigation,” the FBI said in an email.