Special Counsel Robert Mueller is reportedly looking into whether former national security adviser Michael Flynn was involved in a kickback scheme with a Turkish lobbying client.
Of interest to Mueller, according to The New York Times, are two payments totaling $80,000 that Flynn made last year to his Turkish client, Ekim Alptekin.
The payments have raised suspicion because they were made in between larger financial transfers from Alptekin to Flynn, who signed a $600,000 lobbying contract on Aug. 9, 2016. Mueller, a former FBI director, is also looking into whether the Turkish government was behind the payments to Flynn, the former director of the Defense Intelligence Agency.
Alptekin is chairman of the Turkish-U.S. Business Council, a trade organization that is controlled by the Turkish government.
Through a Dutch shell company called Inovo BV, Alptekin made his first payment to Flynn, for $200,000, on Sept. 9. Four days later, Flynn’s consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, sent $40,000 to Inovo BV as a “consultancy fee.” (RELATED: Michael Flynn Is Lobbying For Obscure Dutch Company With Ties To Turkish Government)
A similar exchange occurred the next month. Inovo BV paid Flynn Intel $185,000 on Oct. 11. Six days later, Flynn Intel paid Inovo BV another $40,000.
According to The Times, Mueller’s investigators have keyed in on the money transfers during interviews with several witnesses familiar with Flynn’s business activities.
“Mr. Mueller’s investigators have asked repeatedly about two payments of $40,000 each that the Flynn Intel Group made to Inovo, said witnesses who have been interviewed in the case,” reads the Times report.
Mueller has also requested records from the White House about Flynn, whom President Trump fired from his national security adviser post on Feb. 13, just 24 days into the job.
Mueller is leading a sprawling investigation into a variety of matters involving Trump campaign members. In addition to Flynn’s consulting work during the presidential campaign, Mueller is probing potential collusion between the campaign and the Russian government as well as Trump’s past business activities.
Trump has called the entire investigation a “witch hunt,” and has hinted that he would consider firing Mueller, who was appointed to the job on May 19.
A kickback scheme between Flynn and Alptekin have been rumored for months, ever since Flynn, a retired lieutenant general, retroactively filed documents with the Justice Department detailing his work for Alptekin.
Flynn filed the disclosures on March 7, months after the Justice Department informed him that he would need to register as a foreign agent of Turkey because of his work for Alptekin, the chairman of the Turkish-U.S. Business Council, a trade group controlled by the Turkish government.
The Daily Caller first reported the relationship between Flynn and Alptekin on Nov. 11, several days after Trump’s election. Earlier that same day, Flynn published an op-ed in The Hill calling on the U.S. government to extradite Fethullah Gulen.
Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erodgan, has pressured the U.S. to extradite Gulen, who he accuses of masterminding last July’s failed coup attempt.
A Daily Caller investigation revealed that Flynn had a consulting arrangement with Alptekin, though the details of the contract were not known until March.
In the March disclosures, Flynn revealed that he was hired by Alptekin to investigate Gulen and to produce a documentary film about the reclusive cleric. Alptekin also arranged a Sept. 19 meeting in New York City between Flynn and two top Turkish government ministers. The Gulen extradition issue was discussed in that meeting. (RELATED: New Disclosures Show It Was Probably A Good Idea To Fire Michael Flynn)
Former CIA Director James Woolsey, who served as an unpaid adviser for Flynn Intel Group, attended that meeting. He has claimed that the group discussed ways to potentially extradite Gulen, who lives in the mountains of Pennsylvania. (RELATED: As Foreign Agent Of Turkey, Flynn Agreed To Form Investigative Unit, Make ‘Criminal Referrals’)
Alptekin has denied that a secret kidnapping mission was discussed in the meeting. He has also denied that the $80,000 he received from Flynn Intel Group are kickback payments.
“Ekim maintains that all payments and refunds were for unfulfilled work, and that they were legal, ethical and above board,” Molly Toomey, a spokeswoman for Alptekin, told The Times.
Alptekin did not respond to TheDC’s request for comment.