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Two ex-associates of Michael Flynn charged with lobbying for Turkey

20 December 2018, 01:00 | Tara Lloyd

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Flynn's former business partner, Bijan Rafiekian, was indicted on two criminal counts in the USA state of Virginia, including conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government, Reuters reported on Monday. 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". Flynn, Alptekin and Kian were allegedly involved in a scheme to boost support among American politicians to extradite Gülen, who the Turkish government blamed for instigating a failed coup in 2016, back to Turkey.

Gulen, who holds a USA green card and lives in Pennsylvania, is a rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who has accused the cleric of directing a failed coup and who wanted the U.S.to extradite him back to Turkey.

A senior White official pushed back on that assertion on Monday, stressing that Trump did not commit during a meeting with Erdogan at the G20 summit two weeks ago to extradite Gulen, who denies involvement in the coup attempt.

Throughout the Turkish lobbying case made public Monday, Flynn is referred to as "Person A".

Flynn admitted previous year to lying about his business with the Turkish government and agreed to cooperate with law enforcement in a deal with special counsel Robert Mueller's team. Flynn has pleaded guilty to lying about his Russian contacts.

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Kian and Flynn worked together in the Flynn Intel Group.

The charges against Bijan Kian and Ekim Alptekin were unsealed Monday in Virginia court, the New York Times reports.

Kian's lawyer, Robert Trout, declined comment after today's hearing.

Bijan Kian, 66, of San Juan Capistrano, Calif., and Kamil Ekim Alptekin, 41, of Istanbul were also charged with conspiracy. He has previously denied any wrongdoing and said he directed the lobbying on his own. At the same time, the conspirators sought to hide that the Government of Turkey was directing the work. "He has not changed his story, and he does not plan to", said Molly Toomey, a spokeswoman for Alptekin. Flynn Intel Group hired law firm Covington and Burling to investigate whether it was obligated to register as a foreign agent under FARA. Alptekin is also charged with making false statements.Rafiekian made an appearance in federal court in Virginia.

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Turkey's government has tried to help along the case. Kian reportedly served as vice chairman of Flynn's lobbying group, the Flynn Intel Group.

The Flynn Intel Group also falsely claimed that a meeting in NY with Turkish officials on September 19, 2016, was just for background on the country, prosecutors say.

The DOJ opened an investigation into Flynn's company after the op-ed was published.

At that time, Flynn and his firm acknowledged the lobbying efforts "could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey" but that was disputed by Alptekin. Prosecutors trace a line comparing the Ayatollah Khomenei's pre-revolutionary days meditating under an "apple tree" in France to Gulen's spiritual refuge in Pennsylvania from an August 4 email that Kian sent Flynn to the final draft, published in November. "He claimed to be a man of God who wanted to topple a dictator and return the power to the people".

"This is a very high profile exposure one day before the election", Kian emailed Alptekin, before the opinion piece's publication.

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