Michael Flynn’s business partners arrested over illegal lobbying plotDecember 18, 2018
Mueller ARRESTS disgraced Mike Flynn’s business partner and reveals their ‘illegal lobbying for Turkey’ in rebuke to president for attacking probe into national security advisor
- Two ex-business associates of President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn have been indicated
- The charges come out of special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation
- Bijan Kian, Flynn’s Number 2 at his lobbying firm, and Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin were charged with a conspiracy to violate federal lobbying rules
- The indictments are part of Mueller’s broader crackdown on foreign lobbying
- Kian was arrested and released on bond
- Alptekin is in Turkey and there is a warrant out for his arrest
Robert Mueller’s special counsel probe arrested a business associate of Mike Flynn, Donald Trump’s disgraced national security adviser, Monday – on the eve of the retired general’s sentencing and after the president criticized the case against him.
Bijan Kian, an Iranian-American who was number two to Flynn was arrested and appeared in federal court in Washington D.C. before being freed on bail.
He is charged with a plot to lobby without declaring that he and Flynn’s firm was working for the Turkish government, breaking the Foreign Agent Registration Act. Kian has yet to enter a plea.
Also indicted was the business partner who worked with him and Flynn, Turkish-Dutch dual national Ekim Alpetkin, who is the subject of an arrest warrant and thought to be in Turkey.
Kian and Alpetkin are accused in court papers of a plot to convince the U.S. government to extradite or otherwise expel Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who is a deadly rival of the country’s strongman president Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Mueller says in the court papers that with Flynn, who is referred to a ‘Person A’ they placed an op-ed in The Hill newspaper without acknowledging that it was at the prompting of the Turkish government.
Flynn wrote the op-ed and his firm was paid $600,000 for their lobbying campaign – but he is not indicted himself in what appears to be a sign that he flipped on his former associates.
The special counsel has praised the former Trump administration official for his ‘substantial help’ in several investigations. It is believed this is one of them.
Bijan Kian (left) and Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin (right) were indicted for their work with former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn on a lobbying project for Turkey
The indictments are part of special counsel Robert Mueller’s broader crackdown on foreign lobbying
Relations have been a bit of a roller coaster between President Trump (left) and Turkish President Erdogan (right)
The timing of the arrest and indictments appears extremely pointed.
Flynn is due in court Tuesday to be sentenced after the Mueller probe released documents offering insight into his prosecution which have fueled claims from Trump and his supporters that the former adviser was railroaded into a ‘perjury trap’.
They showed that agents did not advise him to bring an attorney and did not explicitly tell him that lying to the FBI is a felony, leading to accusations from Trump and others that the process was an abuse of power, and that Flynn’s sole offense was a technical one.
But Mueller hit back hard Friday with court papers saying that Flynn was a former senior military officer and government official who did not need warned lying to the FBI is a crime.
His latest move Monday addresses the other aspect of the criticism – that Flynn did no other wrong – by putting him at the heart of a plot to effect change on U.S. policy as it affects a key ally without admitting who was paying for the effort to change it.
The indictments are part of Mueller’s look into foreign lobbying and outside attempts to influence U.S. policy abroad.
Former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort was indicted for his work for the Ukraine – and more significantly for those close to Trump, efforts to gain influence by Middle Eastern countries including Qatar, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates – of which the latter two have become close allies of Jared Kushner, the president’s son-in-law.
The investigation into the Turkish lobbying began in 2016 after Flynn, who was advising Trump’s presidential campaign at the time but had his own lobbying shop The Flynn Intel Group, wrote an op-ed for The Hill newspaper attacking Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in Pennsylvania.
Investigators were said to wonder why Flynn, who was pushing to be Trump’s national security adviser, was promoting talking points from the Turkish government.
The op-ed blamed Gulen for the July 15, 2016 coup that attempted oust the Turkish president and ‘urged the U.S. government to deny the Turkish citizen refuge in the United States.’
Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused Gulen of directing the failed coup, which Gulen has denied.
Turkey has been trying to extradite Gulen since 2016 but the Justice Department has denied the request, saying it did not meet the ‘legal standards’ for extradition.
The indictment also shows how Flynn was texting and emailing frequently about the project throughout the final weeks of the presidential campaign, when he was advising Trump on foreign relations.
His op-ed in The Hill appeared on Election Day.
Attack: Trump has thrown himself behind criticism of the Robert Mueller special counsel probe and its dealings with Flynn after court papers showed how Flynn was not told lying to the FBI was a crime. Mueller’s response has include arresting his business partner
Last month, President Trump said he was not considering Turkey’s extradition request.
‘No, it’s not under consideration,’ he said of Gulen. ‘We are looking, always looking, and whatever we can do for Turkey and, frankly, countries that we can get along with very well. We’re having a very good moment with Turkey.’
Trump said he gets along ‘very, very well’ with Erdogan and called him a ‘friend of mine.’
‘Whatever we can do, we’ll do,’ Trump added. ‘But that is something that we’re always looking at. But at this point, no.’
U.S.-Turkish relations have been on a bit of a roller coaster under Trump.
They were on an upswing in the wake of American cleric Andrew Brunson’s release from a Turkish prison in October.
And Trump reportedly fist-bumped Erdogan when they met in Brussels this past summer at a NATO meeting and praised the Turkish president – who is known for his authoritarian style – a leader who ‘does things the right way.’
But things went back downhill after Trump’s refusal to lay the blame for the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi at the feet of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman, whom Turkish intelligence blamed and U.S. intelligence agencies suggested he was involved.
Tensions between the two have also flared around Syria.
Trump called his Turkish counterpart on Friday and asked him to call off Turkey’s military strike against the U.S.’s Kurdish partners in Syria.
It’s unclear if the two leaders reached a deal but they agreed ‘on the need for more effective coordination’ in Syria, an official told The Wall Street Journal.
Prosecutors charge the two men ‘conspired covertly and unlawfully to influence U.S. politicians and public opinion’ regarding Fethullah Gulen (above), a cleric living in Pennsylvania that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has accused of directing a failed coup
Prosecutors charge that Kian and Alptekin ‘conspired covertly and unlawfully to influence U.S. politicians and public opinion’ regarding Gulen to try and ‘ultimately’ secure Gulen’s extradition.
The two men ‘knowingly acted and caused others to act in the United States as an agent of a foreign government, that is, the government of Turkey, without prior notification to the Attorney General, as required by law,’ the indictment reads.
The 21-page indictment lays out how the two men established their work against Gulen, what work was performed, how they covered up the fact the Turkish government was involved and their payment for the project.
The Flynn Intel Group received $600,000 for their efforts to discredit Gulen.
Kian, also known was Bijan Rafiekian, is referred to in the indictment of being a co-founder of the Flynn Intel Group, which ‘offered various services’ to it clients based on Flynn’s ‘national security expertise.’
Alptekin is identified as a ‘dual Turkish-Dutch citizen residing in Istanbul’ with ‘close ties to the highest levels of the Government in Turkey.’
He owned a company based in the Netherlands that paid the Flynn Intel Group for its work.
The Flynn Intel Group wired $40,000 to Alptekin’s company in the Netherlands in what it called a “consultancy” fee, the indictment revealed. But it was actually payment to Alptekin’s for pretending he was Flynn’s client when the Flynn Intel Group knew that its client was really the Turkish government.
The ‘Government of Turkey directed the work through Alptekin’ but the ‘defendants sought to conceal Turkey’s involvement in the efforts to discredit,’ the indictment notes.
Prosecutors also accuse the two men of ‘knowingly provided false information’ to the company’s attorneys ‘in an effort to hide’ the ‘involvement of Turkish government officials in the project.’
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Bijan Kian with Michael Flynn
Ekim Alptekin remains in Turkey
Flynn is referred to in the indictment only as ‘Person A.’
The Flynn Intel Group is now defunct.
When he pleaded guilty last December to lying to FBI gents working on the Russia investigation, Flynn also admitted to repeated violations of laws requiring firms to register their work on behalf of foreign clients.
Flynn is scheduled to be sentenced on Tuesday in that case, the first former White House official to face the judge.
Last week Mueller’s office said that Flynn’s cooperation – including 19 meetings with investigators – was so extensive that he was entitled to avoid prison when he is sentenced.
ROBERT MUELLER’S PROBE SO FAR: EIGHT CONVICTIONS – INCLUDING THREE TOP TRUMP AIDES, A JAILED ATTORNEY AND 25 RUSSIANS ACCUSED
GUILTY: MICHAEL FLYNN
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in December 2017. Awaiting sentence
Flynn was President Trump’s former National Security Advisor and Robert Mueller’s most senior scalp to date. He previously served when he was a three star general as President Obama’s director of the Defense Intelligence Agency but was fired.
He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about his conversations with a Russian ambassador in December 2016. He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY: MICHAEL COHEN
Pleaded guilty to eight counts including fraud and two campaign finance violations in August 2018. Pleaded guilty to further count of lying to Congress in November 2018. Sentenced to three years in prison and $2 million in fines and forfeitures in December 2018
Cohen was Trump’s longtime personal attorney, starting working for him and the Trump Organization in 2007. He is the longest-serving member of Trump’s inner circle to be implicated by Mueller. Cohen professed unswerving devotion to Trump – and organized payments to silence two women who alleged they had sex with the-then candidate: porn star Stormy Daniels and Playboy model Karen McDougal. He admitted that payments to both women were felony campaign finance violations – and admitted that he acted at the ‘direction’ of ‘Candidate-1’: Donald Trump.
He also admitted tax fraud by lying about his income from loans he made, money from taxi medallions he owned, and other sources of income, at a cost to the Treasury of $1.3 million.
And he admitted lying to Congress in a rare use of the offense. The judge in his case let him report for prison on March 6 and recommended he serve it in a medium-security facility close to New York City.
GUILTY: PAUL MANAFORT
Found guilty of eight charges of bank and tax fraud in August 2018. Pleaded guilty to two further charges. Awaiting sentence
Manafort worked for Trump’s campaign from March 2016 and chaired it from June to August 2016, overseeing Trump being adopted as Republican candidate at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland. He is the most senior campaign official to be implicated by Mueller. Manafort was one of Washington D.C.’s longest-term and most influential lobbyists but in 2015, his money dried up and the next year he turned to Trump for help, offering to be his campaign chairman for free – in the hope of making more money afterwards. But Mueller unwound his previous finances and discovered years of tax and bank fraud as he coined in cash from pro-Russia political parties and oligarchs in Ukraine.
Manafort pleaded not guilty to 18 charges of tax and bank fraud but was convicted of eight counts. The jury was deadlocked on the other 10 charges. A second trial on charges of failing to register as a foreign agent is due in September.
GUILTY: RICK GATES
Pleaded guilty to conspiracy against the United States and making false statements in February 2018. Awaiting sentence
Gates was Manafort’s former deputy at political consulting firm DMP International. He admitted to conspiring to defraud the U.S. government on financial activity, and to lying to investigators about a meeting Manafort had with a member of congress in 2013. As a result of his guilty plea and promise of cooperation, prosecutors vacated charges against Gates on bank fraud, bank fraud conspiracy, failure to disclose foreign bank accounts, filing false tax returns, helping prepare false tax filings, and falsely amending tax returns.
GUILTY AND JAILED: GEORGE PAPADOPOLOUS
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in October 2017. Sentenced to 14 days in September 2018, and reported to prison in November. Served 12 days and released on December 7, 2018
Papadopoulos was a member of Donald Trump’s campaign foreign policy advisory committee. He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about his contacts with London professor Josef Mifsud and Ivan Timofeev, the director of a Russian government-funded think tank.
He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY AND JAILED: RICHARD PINEDO
Pleaded guilty to identity fraud in February 2018. Sentenced to a year in prison
Pinedo is a 28-year-old computer specialist from Santa Paula, California. He admitted to selling bank account numbers to Russian nationals over the internet that he had obtained using stolen identities.
He has agreed to cooperate with the special counsel investigation.
GUILTY AND JAILED: ALEX VAN DER ZWAAN
Pleaded guilty to making false statements in February 2018. He served a 30-day prison sentence earlier this year and was deported to the Netherlands on his release
Van der Zwaan is a Dutch attorney for Skadden Arps who worked on a Ukrainian political analysis report for Paul Manafort in 2012.
He admitted to lying to special counsel investigators about when he last spoke with Rick Gates and Konstantin Kilimnik.
GUILTY: W. SAMUEL PATTEN
Pleaded guilty in August 2018 to failing to register as a lobbyist while doing work for a Ukrainian political party. Awaiting sentence
Patten, a long-time D.C. lobbyist was a business partner of Paul Manafort. He pleaded guilty to admitting to arranging an illegal $50,000 donation to Trump’s inauguration.
He arranged for an American ‘straw donor’ to pay $50,000 to the inaugural committee, knowing that it was actually for a Ukrainian businessman.
Neither the American or the Ukrainian have been named.
CHARGED: KONSTANTIN KILIMNIK
Indicted for obstruction of justice and conspiracy to obstruct justice. At large, probably in Russia
Kilimnik is a former employee of Manafort’s political consulting firm and helped him with lobbying work in Ukraine. He is accused of witness tampering, after he allegedly contacted individuals who had worked with Manafort to remind them that Manafort only performed lobbying work for them outside of the U.S.
He has been linked to Russian intelligence and is currently thought to be in Russia – effectively beyond the reach of extradition by Mueller’s team.
INDICTED: THE RUSSIANS
Twenty-five Russian nationals and three Russian entities have been indicted for conspiracy to defraud the United States. They remain at large in Russia
Two of these Russian nationals were also indicted for conspiracy to commit wire fraud and 11 were indicted for conspiracy to launder money. Fifteen of them were also indicted for identity fraud.
Vladimir Putin has ridiculed the charges. Russia effectively bars extradition of its nationals. The only prospect Mueller has of bringing any in front of a U.S. jury is if Interpol has their names on an international stop list – which is not made public – and they set foot in a territory which extradites to the U.S.
INDICTED: MICHAEL FLYNN’S BUSINESS PARTNERS
Bijan Kian (left), number two in now disgraced former national security adviser Mike Flynn’s lobbying company, and the two’s business partner Ekim Alptekin (right) were indicted for conspiracy to lobby illegally. Kian is awaiting trial, Alptekin is still to appear in court
Kian, an Iranian-American was arrested and appeared in court charged with a conspiracy to illegally lobby the U.S government without registering as a foreign agent. Their co-conspirator was Flynn, who is called ‘Person A’ in the indictment and is not charged, offering some insight into what charges he escaped with his plea deal.
Kian, vice-president of Flynn’s former lobbying firm, is alleged to have plotted with Alptekin to try to change U.S. policy on an exiled Turkish cleric, Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania and who is accused by Turkey’s strongman president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, of trying to depose him.
Erdogan’s government wanted him extradited from the U.S. and paid Flynn’s firm through Alptekin for lobbying, including an op-ed in The Hill calling for Gulen to be ejected. Flynn and Kian both lied that the op-ed was not paid for by the Turkish government.
The indictment is a sign of how Mueller is taking an interest in more than just Russian involvement in the 2016 election.
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