Turkish businessman Alptekin indicted with illegally lobbying
A former business partner of Michael Flynn, who was once U.S. President Donald Trump's security advisor, is being charged with conspiracy for helping to extradite Turkish cleric Fethullah Gülen from the United States, the Washington Post reported on Monday.
According to the indictment, Bijan Kian, Flynn's former partner, conspired with Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin to illegally lobby U.S. government officials and influence public opinion in the U.S. against Gülen, Washington Post said.
Turkey has accused the cleric, Fethullah Gülen, of masterminding a failed 2016 coup attempt and has launched a wide-scale crackdown against what it calls Gülen’s followers in Turkey. Gülen has denied involvement in the coup.
Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin is accused of directing and funding Kian and Flynn’s business. According to the indictment, it was ''clear'' that the real ''client'' was the Turkish Government and it worked through Alptekin. The indictment says "Turkish government officials approved the budget for, and received regular updates on" progress of lobbying efforts against Gulen through Kian's company based in Alexanderia, Virginia.
Alptekin was also charged with making false statements to F.B.I. investigators. Alptekin is described in the indictment "a dual Turkish-Dutch citizen... had close ties to the highest levels of the Government of Turkey." He is charged with the same crimes as Kian, as well as making false statements, but he remains in Turkey.
Alptekin's last visit to the U.S. was May 2017 when he was one of keynote speakers at the Turkish-American Business Council, ATC's annual convention. At the time, Alptekin gave few interviews but refused to comment on whether he was questioned by the U.S. authorities. In fall of 2017, the Turkish press confirmed that Alptekin was questioned by the U.S. authorities. Alptekin was also the head of ATC, between 2014 and 2018. ATC is known as the most powerful business council between the countries which has numerous U.S. and Turkish defence companies.
ATC held its annual convention at the Trump Hotel in 2017. ATC cancelled its 2018 annual conference twice. The new date for the convention is set for April of 2018, at the same Trump Hotel in Washington, DC.
Federal investigators have sought more information on Alptekin and Inovo BV, a Dutch consulting firm which funded Flynn for a project which is included in the investigation. The U.S. prosecutors have been investigating an unfinished documentary project to boost Turkey’s image and discredit Gülen.
The Wall Street Journal first broke the unfinished documentary in which Turkish journalist Nedim Sener and former military intelligence chief Ibrahim Hakki Pekin were two of the guests in the documentary which was directed by Bijan Kian and Ekim Alptekin. Sener and Pekin stated they participated into the documentary with no knowledge of lobbying efforts by Alptekin or others and they received no money for it.
Flynn and Kian also commissioned a detailed dossier titled “Fethullah Gülen: A Primer for Investigators,” which was written by Thomas Neer, a former F.B.I. agent, The New York Times reported. Alptekin, who is defined as someone with close ties to the highest levels of the Turkish government in the indictment, helped to finance the project.
Today also marks the fifth anniversary of the 2013 corruption scandal in Turkey. On Dec. 17, a criminal investigation involving several key people in Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan's ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) was started. Prosecutors accused 14 people, including Süleyman Aslan, the director of state-owned Halkbank, Iranian businessman Reza Zarrab, and several family members of cabinet ministers – of bribery, corruption, fraud, money laundering and gold smuggling.
On 19 March 2016, Zarrab was arrested in the United States and accused of being a member of an international criminal organization. He was charged with evading the U.S. economic sanctions on Iran and money laundering in an alleged racket scheme to help Iran bypass the sanctions, involving ministers of the Turkish government of then prime minister Erdoğan.
In the 21-page indictment, it shows that the American investigators has email communications between Kian and Alptekin.
Alptekin denies that there is any Turkish Government involvement in lobbying efforts. In the indictment, it is claimed that Turkish Minister #1 is being updated and approve the lobbying efforts. Turkish Minister #1 also, according to email communications quoted by the U.S. investigators, told Alptekin that these efforts will be discussed at the Turkish Cabinet of Ministers.
In page 5, according to Alptekin's email dated August 10 2016 and quoted by the indictment, "Turkish Minister #1" tells Alptekin that he would like to meet with the group during his visit to Washington DC. Alptekin also asks Kian if they know anyone on U.S. Secretary of State's team. U.S. Secretary was John Kerry at the time.