A business associate of a Turkish client of retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn testified before a federal grand jury last week, according to a new report which helps shed light on why Flynn is being investigated by special counsel Robert Mueller.
According to Pro Publica, Mueller issued a subpoena to compel Sezgin Baran Korkmaz, a Turkish businessman, to testify before a federal grand jury on Sept. 22.
A letter that Mueller and one of his prosecutors sent to Korkmaz provides new details about why Flynn is under investigation.
“The grand jury is conducting an investigation of possible violations of federal criminal laws involving the Foreign Agents Registration Act, among other offenses,” reads Mueller’s subpoena to Korkmaz, which was obtained by Pro Publica.
Korkmaz does not have any clear ties to Flynn, but he is linked to a Turkish businessman named Ekim Alptekin.
Alptekin hired Flynn’s consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, last August to investigate Fethullah Gulen, a political enemy of Turkey’s president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Erdogan has accused Gulen, a Muslim cleric living in self-exile in the U.S., of coordinating last July’s failed coup attempt against the Turkish government. On Election Day, Flynn published an op-ed in The Hill calling on the U.S. government to extradite Gulen.
Korkmaz’s company, SBK Holdings, is a member of the Turkish-U.S. Business Council (TAIK), a trade group chaired by Alptekin. Pro Publica notes that Korkmaz praised Alptekin earlier this year during at speech at an annual convention hosted by TAIK
“Where I am now is due to the support of Mr. Ekim,” Korkmaz said at the event, which his company co-sponsored and which was held at Trump International Hotel in Washington, D.C.
According to a source for Pro Publica, Mueller’s team is investigating whether Alptekin had financial backing for the $600,000 contract he signed with Flynn Intel.
Through a Netherlands-based shell company he controls, Alptekin paid Flynn Intel a total of $530,000 for the work, but Flynn’s firm sent back to payments totaling $80,000 to Alptekin. Mueller is also reportedly looking into whether those return payments were a kickback, an allegation that Alptekin has denied to The Daily Caller and others. (RELATED: Mueller Is Looking Into Whether Flynn Engaged In Kickback Scheme With Turkish Businessman)
Flynn was forced by the Justice Department to register as a foreign agent of Turkey in early March, just weeks after he was fired by Trump as national security adviser.
Flynn was first contacted by the Justice Department about his relationship with Alptekin at the end of November. That was just weeks after The Daily Caller first reported details of Flynn Intel’s relationship with Alptekin’s company. (RELATED: Michael Flynn’s Lobbying Client Is Turkish Businessman With Ties To Turkish Government)
Alptekin initially claimed that he paid Flynn a five-figure sum of money. Flynn’s lobbying disclosure filing in March showed that Alptekin grossly underreported how much he paid the former Trump associate. Flynn Intel has also underreported the amount of money it received from Alptekin, who holds Dutch and Turkish citizenship.
Flynn Intel did disclose its work for Alptekin last September under the Lobbying Disclosure Act (LDA), a lobbying law that is less stringent than the Foreign Agents Registration Act. In one of its filings under LDA, Flynn Intel claimed it was paid less than $5,000 by Alptekin.
Alptekin did not respond to TheDC’s request for comment.