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Prosecutors Consider Michael Flynn A Witness, Not A Co-Conspirator, At Ex-Business Partner’s Trial

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter
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  • Michael Flynn plans to testify at a trial for his former business partner, who faces charges related to his lobbying on behalf of the Turkish government.
  • A prosecutor handling the case of Bijan Rafiekian, the former Flynn associate, said at a hearing Thursday Flynn is considered a witness in the case, and not a co-conspirator. 
  • The prosecutor also said Flynn “was aware” the Turkish government was somehow involved in a public relations and lobbying campaign that also involved Rafiekian and Turkish businessman, Ekim Alptekin. 

Federal prosecutors offered a preview Thursday of Michael Flynn’s role at the upcoming trial of his former business partner, saying in a court hearing that the former national security adviser is considered a witness rather than a co-conspirator in a secret Turkish lobbying campaign involving his consulting firm.

Flynn still plans to testify against his former partner, Bijan Rafiekian, assistant U.S. attorney James P. Gillis said at a hearing in Alexandria, Virginia. Rafiekian, who was an executive at Flynn’s consulting firm, Flynn Intel Group, was indicted Dec. 12, 2018, on charges that he acted as a foreign agent of Turkey.

His trial is tentatively scheduled to start July 15.

Gillis said in court Thursday that Flynn “was aware” the Turkish government was somehow involved in a public relations and lobbying campaign aimed against Fethullah Gulen, a Muslim cleric and political foe of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, according to The Washington Post(RELATED: Michael Flynn’s Business Partners Charged In Covert Turkish Lobbying Scheme)

But Gillis said: “We do not contend that General Flynn was a part of that conspiracy.”

Gillis also said Flynn “is going to go well beyond” what has been revealed in court documents when he testifies at Rafiekian’s trial.

Rafiekian, who also uses the last name Kian, was indicted along with Flynn Intel Group’s client, Ekim Alptekin. In addition to charges that they acted as unregistered foreign agents, Rafiekian and Alptekin have been charged with making false statements on registration documents with the Justice Department. Prosecutors also allege they took part in an $80,000 kickback scheme.

Flynn has cooperated with prosecutors in the case as part of a plea deal he entered with the special counsel’s investigation Dec. 1, 2017.

Flynn Intel Group and Alptekin’s firm, Inovo BV, signed a $600,000 contract in August 2016 to mount a public relations and lobbying campaign against Gulen.

U.S. based cleric Fethullah Gulen at his home in Saylorsburg, Pennsylvania, U.S. July 29, 2016. REUTERS/Charles Mostoller

The Daily Caller first reported Flynn Intel Group’s link to Inovo BV on Nov. 11, 2016, after investigating the origins of an op-ed that Flynn published at The Hill on Election Day, Nov. 8, 2016. Flynn called on the U.S. government to extradite Gulen, who lives in exile in the U.S.

Lobbying disclosure forms filed with Congress showed Flynn Intel Group was lobbying on behalf of Inovo BV, which was registered in the Netherlands to Alptekin. Alptekin vehemently denied to The Daily Caller News Foundation and other news outlets at the time that the Turkish government was involved in his hiring of Flynn Intel Group. He also said he played no role in creating the op-ed, and said he would have advised Flynn against publishing the piece if he had the chance.

But Flynn, Rafiekian, and Alptekin all filed retroactive registrations March 7, 2017, under the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) for their work on behalf of the Turkish government.

The registration documents revealed that in addition to the op-ed, Flynn Intel Group sought to create a documentary portraying Gulen as a terrorist. Flynn’s firm also planned to use former FBI officials and other investigators to recommend criminal charges against Gulen.

Rafiekian also arranged a meeting with the House Homeland Security Committee. Alptekin set up a meeting Sept. 19, 2016, between Flynn and Kian and two high-ranking Turkish government officials during their visit to the UN General Assembly.

Prosecutors have produced emails that show Alptekin told Rafiekian and Flynn that Turkish government officials had approved a budget for the Gulen project.

In a July 29, 2016, email, Alptekin briefed Rafiekian on a conversation he had with a Turkish government minister about a budget for the project.

“We agreed to meet again before he leaves for DC and he asked me to formulate what kind of output we can generate on the short and mid-term as well as an indicative budget,” Alptekin wrote.

In an Aug. 10, 2016, email to Rafiekian and Flynn, Alptekin said he had spoken to two Turkish government minsters, and that “I have a green light to discuss confidentiality, budget and the scope of the contract.”

Gillis acknowledged Thursday that prosecutors do not have documentation showing that the Turkish government gave money to Alptekin, according to WaPo.

“Given the high-ranking officials involved, it’s highly unlikely that they would produce … the bank statements that were sought,” he said. But he added that Flynn’s testimony “will lead to a logical inference” that Turkey was secretly funding Inovo BV.

Flynn, who hired a new legal team Wednesday, has yet to face sentencing in his case before the special counsel. He appeared for sentencing Dec. 18, 2018, but postponed a decision after the judge handling his case indicated he would slap the retired lieutenant general with jail time because of his work on behalf of the Turkish government.

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