Flynn’s former business partner charged with secret lobbying for Turkey

Flynn’s former business partner charged with secret lobbying for Turkey

An ex-business partner of former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn and a businessman with ties to Turkish government officials have been charged with undisclosed lobbying aimed at the extradition of a Muslim cleric living in the United States.

Flynn’s former partner, Bijan Rafiekian, was indicted on two criminal counts, including conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government, according to a grand jury indictment unsealed on Monday in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish-Dutch businessman, was charged for allegedly plotting with Turkish officials to cause the extradition of Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen and for lying to the FBI about his efforts, among six total counts.

A spokesperson for Alptekin said he denied the allegations.

The charges underscored the broadening impact of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, which is focused on possible collusion between Russia and U.S. President Donald Trump’s 2016 election campaign but which has led to at least four spinoff probes including the case against Alptekin and Rafiekian.

Coming on the heels of guilty pleas by former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort and political operative Samuel Patten for similar crimes, the indictments also highlight a newfound interest at the Justice Department in enforcing a law requiring disclosure of lobbying for foreign interests.

“I don’t think anyone took that law very seriously but perhaps these indictments will change that,” said criminal defense lawyer Page Pate.

Flynn, who is due to be sentenced on Tuesday for lying to the FBI related to his contacts with the then Russian ambassador to the United States, Sergei Kislyak, has also admitted to lying about his role in the Turkish lobbying effort and has been cooperating with prosecutors on the probe.

The indictment alleges that Rafiekian and Alptekin made false statements about the project in filings to the Department of Justice in order to mask the involvement of the Turkish government, which had been pushing for the extradition of Gulen, identified only as a Turkish citizen in the indictment.

“The defendants sought to discredit and delegitimize the Turkish citizen in the eyes of politicians and the public, and ultimately to secure the Turkish citizen’s extradition,” attorneys for the Eastern District of Virginia wrote.

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