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US charges former Flynn business partner with secret lobbying for Turkey

20 December 2018

In an indictment, unsealed in the federal court, the US government accuses Bijan Rafiekian and Kamil Ekim Alptekin of conspiring to influence USA officials and the public on behalf of the Turkish government.

Mr Flynn's work on the Turkey project came under scrutiny after he published a commentary on a political news website on the day of the 2016 presidential election calling Mr Gulen a "radical Islamist" who should be extradited to Turkey.

Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish businessman regarded as close to Erdoğan, was also charged in the indictment, the filing shows.

Gulen has been blamed by the Turkish government for orchestrating a failed military coup against Erdrogan's government. In the indictments, Rafiekian and Alptekin are accused of operating at the direction of Turkish government officials to use the Flynn Intel Group, a consulting firm founded by Flynn, to obtain the extradition of Fethullah Gulen, a foe of the Turkish government who is living in exile in the U.S.

The indictment details how Kian and Alptekin plotted a 90-day anti-Gulen campaign - and disguised the fact that the real source of funding for the operation was the Turkish government. According to the indictment, Turkish cabinet-level officials approved the budget for the project, and Alptekin allegedly provided Turkish officials updates on the project.

The indictment also cites a September 19, 2016 meeting in NY which sources familiar with the matter said included Rafiekian, Flynn and Turkey's foreign and energy ministers. "Washington believed him. Sadly, shortly after his rise to power through the Iranian revolution, we watched in horror as our diplomats were taken hostage for 444 days in what was once one of our strongest allies in the Middle East". "In this crisis, it is imperative that we remember who our real friends are".

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Allegations that Flynn lobbied on behalf of the Turkish government are not new.

The indictment also claims that Rafiekian and Alptekin lied to Flynn Intel's lawyers about the nature of their work.

Kian's attorney Robert Trout declined to comment on the matter.

The Alliance for Shared Values, a non-profit organization affiliated with Gulen, said in a statement on Monday that the indictments illustrated "just how far the Erdogan government will go in breaking USA law". "All of the reports that implicated or imply that I was in any way representing the government are simply not true". Both face a maximum of 15 years if convicted on those charges, but Alptekin was also charged for lying.

Alptekin is accused of directing and funding Kian and Flynn's work, and then lying in United States filings about his role, Reuters reported. He has an arraignment scheduled for Tuesday.

Last December, Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI and agreed to cooperate with Special Counsel Robert Mueller in his ongoing investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Prosecutors recommended he serve no prison time, and said he helped with Robert Mueller's Russian Federation investigation, and also a separate criminal investigation. Special counsel's prosecutors have asked the judge for no prison time for Flynn, citing his assistance.

US charges former Flynn business partner with secret lobbying for Turkey