A Turkish business consortium chaired by a businessman with lobbying ties to former Trump national security adviser Michael Flynn is co-hosting a three-day conference at Trump International Hotel in May.
The Turkish-American Business Council (TAIK) will co-host the 36th annual “Conference on U.S.-Turkey Relations” with the American Turkish Council (ATC) from May 21 to May 23.
TAIK’s chairman is Ekim Alptekin, the sole proprietor of Inovo BV, a Dutch shell company that paid Flynn’s consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, $530,000 last year for work on behalf of the Turkish government.
Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, disclosed details of that work last week in papers filed with the Justice Department. He also registered as a foreign agent of Turkey. (RELATED: As Foreign Agent, Michael Flynn Formed ‘Investigative Laboratory’ To Seek ‘Criminal Referrals’ On Turkey’s Behalf)
ATC and TAIK announced Trump International as the conference venue in January, before Flynn was fired from his job as national security adviser and before he registered as a foreign agent of Turkey. But his work with Alptekin and for Trump is likely to raise questions about whether he had anything to do with arranging the conference.
The groups have held the conference at The Ritz-Carlton since 2010. The reasons for the change of is unclear. ATC did not respond to a request for comment.
The website Washington Hatti reported the TAC-TAIK conference on Monday.
Trump International’s D.C. hotel has been the target of intense scrutiny from many Trump critics since its opening in October.
Though Trump has said he’s cut direct financial ties to his real estate empire, groups like the liberal Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington have filed complaints alleging that his hotels violate the little-used Emoluments Clause, a rule which constitutionally prohibits U.S. officials from receiving payments or gifts from foreign governments or government-controlled entities without congressional approval.
And TAIK has close ties to the Turkish government.
The group, which Alptekin took over in 2015, operates directly under the umbrella of Turkey’s Foreign Economic Relations Board (DEIK). Though that group is nominally controlled by Turkey’s cabinet, several sources with knowledge of Turkey’s political and economic climate have told The Daily Caller that both organizations operate increasingly at the direction of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Business executives from the U.S. and Turkey, as well as U.S. and Turkish government officials, are set to attend May’s conference. Ernest Moniz, the Energy Secretary under President Obama, was the highest-ranking U.S. official to speak at last year’s gathering.
ATC did not respond to a request for comment on the decision to switch this year’s conference to the Ritz-Cartlon and on whether Alptekin will speak at the event. The 40-year-old businessman gave a speech at least year’s meeting.
The group was also asked if Flynn had any input into this year’s conference.
As a foreign agent for Turkey, Flynn agreed to conduct research on Erdogan’s most hated enemy, Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric living in self-exile in Pennsylvania.
Erdogan has pleaded with Presidents Obama and Trump to extradite Gulen, who he accuses of masterminding a failed coup attempt in July.
As part of its contract, Flynn Intel agreed use an “investigative laboratory” to conduct research that could be used to make “criminal referrals,” seemingly regarding the Gulen case.
The contract, signed on Aug. 9, stated that Flynn Intel’s “investigative laboratory” would consist of former CIA director James Woolsey and several ex-FBI officials. Information for the research was also to be used to make a documentary and to perform other public relations activities.
Flynn Intel was initially set to be paid $600,000 for three months of work on the project.
Woolsey, who served as an unpaid adviser to the Flynn Intel group, told TheDC through a spokesman that he had no idea about Flynn’s work for the Turkish government. He also said he was never asked or consulted about being part of an investigative team for the company.
Trump Hotels did not respond to a request for comment on May’s conference.