Ex-Flynn business partner charged in Turkish lobbying case

U.S.-based Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg Pennsylvania

Another Flynn business associate, the Dutch-Turkish consultant Kamil Ekim Alptekin, is also named in the indictment but is now living in Istanbul, 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. He has rejected allegations that he was being directed by the Turkish government.

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. The op-ed called on the United States to return Gulen to Turkey.

The defendants used Flynn's lobbying firm, the now-defunct Flynn Intel Group, to damage Gülen's reputation, according to the indictment, which refers to the firm only as "Company A". Alptekin, a dual Turkish-Dutch citizen living in Istanbul whose full name is Kamil Ekim Alpetekin, remains at large.

Alptekin is also charged with several counts of lying to federal investigators about his roles in the operation.

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 Gulen a "radical Islamist" who should be extradited to Turkey.

"He is receptive and indicated he would like to meet with us during his upcoming visit to DC", wrote Alptekin. However, not only did Turkish cabinet-level officials approve the budget for the project, but Alptekin provided the Turkish officials updates on the work, and relayed their directions on the work to Rafiekian, Person A, and others at Company A.

Along with the editorial, the Flynn Intel Group produced a report on Mr Gulen and video for a documentary that was never made.

During an interview with the FBI, Alptekin said that while he had discussed the project with a Turkish government minister he made a decision to go ahead and retain the Flynn Intel Group himself after the Turkish government "dropped the ball".

Two former business partners of Michael Flynn's were indicted Monday in an alleged scheme to lobby covertly for the Turkish government. But in October, Alptekin complained that there had been no "smoking gun". The indictment notes that Flynn's column uses identical or very similar language to that prepared by Kian in a draft op-ed.

In 2016, Flynn famously penned an op-ed in The Hill in which he advocated for Gulen's extradition. Flynn is expected to be sentenced on Tuesday. Special counsel's prosecutors have asked the judge for no prison time for Flynn, citing his assistance.

Kian and Alptekin's prosecution is led not by the special counsel but prosecutors with the Eastern District of Virginia. The cleric's religious movement runs schools in around 150 countries, including the USA, and Turkey has accused the schools of financial fraud and other crimes. While that event was being held, there was a violent clash between Turkish guards and protesters outside the Turkish ambassador's residence.

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

Mr Flynn, who is due to be sentenced on Tuesday (local time) for lying to the Federal Bureau of Investigation in relation 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 conversation at the meeting "centered on [Gulen] and the Turkish government's efforts to convince the US government to extradite the Turkish citizen to Turkey".

A representative for Alptekin, 41, who was charged with six criminal counts, said she did not immediately have a comment. But prosecutors say he also received portions of the money as "kickbacks" arranged by Kian. The filings show that Flynn was asked about Obama-era sanctions that were announced December 29, 2016, as punishment for Russia's interference in the election and that he insisted he had not discussed them with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.

Flynn served as Trump's national security adviser at the start of his presidency. Flynn's firm is now defunct.

Cavusoglu, speaking at a conference in Doha, Qatar, on Sunday, said Trump had discussed extraditing Gulen when he met with Erdogan on the sidelines of the G-20 meeting in Argentina last month. But administration officials dispute that there is a justifiable legal case for returning him to Turkey.

"We definitely see no connection between the two", the official said. He was allowed to leave on a recognizance bond, and must keep a probation office informed of his movements. Defense attorney Robert Trout told a magistrate judge that Kian is in the process of relocating from California to the D.C. area.

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