Jul 23 2019

Michael Flynn's former business partner found guilty 

Iranian-American businessman Bijan Rafiekian (also known as Kian), a former business partner of Michael Flynn, was found guilty on lobbying charges related to pro-Turkish government work by the Flynn Intel Group in 2016, reported CNN.

As part of the U.S. Justice Department’s crackdown on illegal lobbying, Kian was charged with illegally lobbying for Turkey, aiding the country’s long-standing efforts for the extradition of Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen, the leader of a religious group the Turkish government accuses of orchestrating a coup attempt in 2016. Gülen has lived in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999.

Kian worked with Michael Flynn in the lobbying firm Flynn Intel Group (FIG). The company was dissolved shortly after Trump’s election in 2016, but came under scrutiny nonetheless afterwards when Michael Flynn was appointed National Security Adviser to President Trump.

The case is a continuation of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation against Flynn, who in 2018 took a plea deal in Mueller’s Russia investigation.

The FIG was hired by Turkish-Dutch businessman Ekim Alptekin in 2016 on a $600,000 contract to secretly investigate Gülen on behalf of the Turkish government. The lobbying work was done during Trump’s campaign, when Flynn was an influential foreign policy adviser. 

Ekim Alptekin was also charged in the case but hasn’t travelled to the U.S. to face charges. He is believed to be in Turkey currently. Alptekin hired FIG on a $600,000 contract to investigate Fethullah Gulen and eventually get him extradited back to Turkey. Alptekin argued for a long time he paid all costs out of his pockets. 

One of FIG's associates was Brian McCauley, a former FBI official who worked as a contractor for Flynn, McCauley also testified that Kian asked him if he could still access classified FBI files on Gulen, and whether he would be willing to conduct surveillance of the imam’s supporters in the U.S. McCauley said he rebuffed both inquiries, the Daily Caller's Chuck Ross reported, a reporter first broke the news showing the tie between Flynn and Alptekin back in 2016, few days after the presidential elections.

The week before the ruling, Federal Judge Anthony Tenga said the case could still be thrown out as the evidence had been “very, very circumstantial”, but ultimately decided to proceed.

On Monday, Kian's lawyer argued that Kian was not proven to be working at the direction of the Turkish government. Prosecutors cited emails that suggest briefings to Turkish government officials. One email by Alptekin said the government had given the green light for the project.

Despite Kian's claims that the project was for a business owned by Alptekin, U.S. Attorney James Gillis said the project focused on Gülen from the beginning and had the interest and approval of people at the highest levels in Ankara.

Kian was the author of an article published under Flynn’s name that accused Gülen of being a radical Islamist and likened him to Sayyed Qutb and Hasan al Banna of the Muslim Brotherhood, two leading members of the group lived in the 20th century. The prosecutors claimed the article was part of the work done for Alptekin, and was sent to him for approval before publication. Kian's lawyers denied the claim.

Kian's sentencing for up to 15 years in prison is currently scheduled for October 18. There will be a hearing before the sentencing, on September 5.