US prosecutors investigate former White House advisor’s firm for Turkey’s lobbying activities

The U.S. prosecutors have been investigating the Turkish lobbying activities in the United States and Turkish-backed U.S. firms run by President Donald Trump’s former security advisor, The Wall Street Journal said on Thursday.

A grand jury in Virginia has sought information on efforts overseen by Trump’s ex-advisor Michael Flynn’s private company to discredit a U.S.-based Turkish cleric, according to people familiar with the matter told the Wall Street Journal.

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.

The grand jury has focused on an “unfinished video” of Flynn’s firm, the Flynn Intel Group, which was reportedly being developed to discredit Gülen.

Prosecutors have also asked for specific information on several individuals involved in the project, including Flynn’s former business partner and a Turkish businessman who financed the project, the newspaper said.

Focusing on Turkey’s lobbying activities, prosecutors have been closely watching Flynn, according to the daily.

Flynn said he and his now-defunct company were paid $530,000 for three months of work directed by the Turkish government while he was serving as an adviser to Trump’s 2016 campaign.

Turkey supported the project and Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin financed it, according to Flynn. Alptekin, however, denied the Turkish government’s role in the project. The Turkish Embassy in Washington refused the newspaper’s request for comment.

Federal investigators have sought more information on Alptekin and Inovo BV, a Dutch consulting firm which funded Flynn for the project, according to the daily. Alptekin commented on the issue through a spokeswoman and said he hired Flynn to advance another project while he was representing an Israeli company looking to export natural gas to Turkey last year, the daily said. However, the Israeli firm’s representatives told the newspaper that they had no relationship with Alptekin or his company.

Federal prosecutors have also been investigating the activities of Bijan Kian, Flynn’s partner at the Flynn Intel Group, according to The Wall Street Journal. Kian oversaw work on the unfinished video about Gülen. Kian has not commented on the issue, yet, the Washington Post said.

Robert Amsterdam, a Canadian attorney who represents the Turkish government, was also under investigation of the U.S. prosecutors, the daily said. Amsterdam also worked to discredit Gülen, according to the daily.

Amsterdam replied the allegations and said he had properly informed Washington of his work for Turkey and that he had never worked with Flynn, according to the daily.

“We never had any contact with Mr. Flynn,” the newspaper quoted Amsterdam as saying.