Flynn Associates Indicted for Acting as Unregistered Foreign Agents

Brendan Smialowski  AFP  Getty Images

Brendan Smialowski AFP Getty Images

Flynn Intel Group co-founder Bijan Rafiekian, also known as Bijan Kian, was charged with conspiracy and acting as an agent of a foreign government and appeared in Virginia federal court Tuesday morning. The campaign came during the final months of the 2016 presidential campaign while Flynn was a top surrogate for Trump's campaign.

He was indicted on charges including failing to register as a foreign agent.

The goal, the Justice Department said, was to obtain Gulen's extradition back to Turkey, where President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had accused him of orchestrating the July 2016 coup attempt. Flynn has denied these reports, but Turkey has had Gulen's follower rendered illegally back to its territory from other countries-including, most recently, Kosovo.

The new charges appear to shed light on the cooperation of Flynn, who previous year admitted to lying about several aspects of the lobbying work.

Flynn Intel Group wired $40,000 to Alptekin's company in the Netherlands and described it as a "consultancy" fee.

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According to the indictment, Rafiekian and Alptekin made arrangements for the Flynn Intel Group to be indirectly paid $600,000 by the Turkish government to help turn USA public and political sentiment against exiled Gulen.

The revelation of the indictment, which was unsealed on Monday, comes on the eve of the retired three-star general Flynn's sentencing hearing. Alptekin, a dual Turkish-Dutch citizen living in Istanbul whose full name is Kamil Ekim Alpetekin, remains at large. He has previously denied any wrongdoing and said he directed the lobbying on his own.

"I just finished in Ankara after several meetings today" with Turkish officials, Alptekin told Flynn and Kian, the indictment states.

The investigators say both men acted on the instructions of the Turkish government without registering as representatives of a foreign government.

Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman, was also charged in the indictment for allegedly plotting to discredit and cause the extradition of Turkish Muslim cleric Fethullah Gulen who lives in exile in the United States.

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The Turkey case against Kian and Alptekin, though, is being handled by Assistant U.S. Attorneys James Gillis and Evan Turgeon in the Eastern District of Virginia, not the special counsel.

The indictment does not say Turkey's government directly funded the effort, but it raises questions about an unusual payment arrangement revealed a year ago.

Flynn, Kian, and Alptekin drew up a contract in which Alptekin's firm paid hundreds of thousands to Flynn Intel Group, Flynn's consulting group, for delivering "findings and results including but not limited to making criminal referrals" against Gulen, The Washington Post reports. But prosecutors say he also received portions of the money as "kickbacks" arranged by Kian.

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

Alptekin, 41, maintained that he was Flynn's client and not Turkey, a spokesperson said.

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The indictment also provides the backstory behind a November 8, 2016, op-ed Flynn published in The Hill newspaper titled "Our Ally Turkey Is in Crisis and Needs Our Support", which compares Gulen to Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini. Kian, according to prosecutors, in response produced a draft of the op-ed, which compared Gulen to Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini and argued the US should not provide a "safe haven" for the cleric.

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