Michael Flynn’s former business partner charged with undisclosed lobbying for Turkey

Ex-Flynn business partner charged in Turkish lobbying case

A former business partner of former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn was charged with trying to influence USA politicians to seek the extradition of a Turkish cleric, according to an indictment filed in the Eastern District of Virginia.

Prosecutors say that Alptekin relayed updates on the project to Turkish officials and "informed RAFIEKIAN and Person A whether the Turkish officials were satisfied with the work Company A was performing".

Gulen, who holds a US 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.

The Alliance for Shared Values, a non-profit organisation affiliated with Mr Gulen, said in a statement that the indictments illustrated "just how far the Erdogan Government will go in breaking USA law". According to the indictment, Rafiekian was vice chairman of Flynn's business group, the Flynn Intel Group. Alptekin, who holds both Dutch and Turkish citizenship, is based in Istanbul.

Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, who paid Kian and Flynn, was also charged in the indictment, but he remained overseas, the newspaper added.

Kian, whose full name is Bijan Rafiekian, was arrested and made an initial appearance today in federal court in Alexandria, Virginia.

United States authorities said the goal of the lobbying project was to press for the extradition of the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999.

But on Sunday, according to media reports, Cavusoglu said Trump recently told Erdogan that the White House is working on extraditing Gulen.

"We are ready to engage on what needs to be done", Kian wrote Alptekin, on July 27.

Kian - in consultation with Turkish officials - drafted parts of the op-ed, the indictment alleges.

Alptekin said in another email that same day that he had met with the Turkish official and other Turkish minister and that he had "a green light to discuss confidentiality, budget and the scope of the contract".

Two former business associates of Michael Flynn have been indicted. But in October, Alptekin complained that there had been no "smoking gun". 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. "This is a very high profile exposure one day before the election".

Instead, the Flynn Intel Group's work would culminate in an op-ed with Flynn's byline published in The Hill newspaper and website on November 8, 2016, the day before the presidential election, according to court documents.

Flynn is scheduled to appear for sentencing at 11 a.m. on Tuesday. Prosecutors asked that he receive no prison time, citing his "substantial assistance".

Earlier this year the probe was handed off to the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia to handle.

Alptekin also co-chaired a conference on U.S. -Turkey relations at Trump's Washington hotel in 2017.

Flynn, who pleaded guilty to lying to federal investigators in the Russian Federation probe past year, and who Mueller told a court has provided "substantial assistance" to the investigation, has been unsettlingly close to the Turkish government.

Kian and Alptekin were charged with conspiracy to work as unregistered agents of a foreign government. The indictment said Kian and Alpetkin concealed the role of the Turkish government in the campaign. Alptekin allegedly made the payments to Flynn's firm from an account in Turkey. But prosecutors say he also received portions of the money as "kickbacks" arranged by Kian. 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. Flynn's firm is now defunct. But administration officials dispute that there is a justifiable legal case for returning him to Turkey.

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