Politics

Michael Flynn Associate Found Guilty Of Illegally Lobbying For Turkey

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Chuck Ross Investigative Reporter

A federal jury in Virginia found a former Michael Flynn business partner guilty Tuesday on charges that he illegally lobbied for the Turkish government while working for Flynn’s intelligence firm in 2016.

Bijan Rafiekian was found guilty on one charge that he operated as an unregistered foreign agent, and another that he conspired to do the same. The charges centered on work that Rafiekian did as an executive for Flynn Intel Group (FIG).

In August 2016, a Turkish businessman named Ekim Alptekin hired FIG on a $600,000 contract to investigate Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric living in exile in the U.S.

Prosecutors accused Rafiekian and Alptekin of lobbying secretly on behalf of the Turkish government to investigate Gulen, who the Turkish government accuses of masterminding a failed coup attempt in July 2016.

As the Daily Caller first reported on Nov. 11, 2016, Alptekin hired FIG through a Dutch shell company he formed called Inovo BV. (RELATED: EXCLUSIVE: Michael Flynn Is Lobbying For Obscure Dutch Company With Ties To Turkish Government)

The case against Rafiekian appeared on thin ice earlier in July, after prosecutors wrapped up their case against the Iranian-American businessman.

Judge Anthony Trenga appeared close to tossing out the case last week, saying that the government’s evidence was “very speculative.” Trenga ultimately allowed the case to proceed.

Former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn passes by members of the media as he departs after his sentencing was delayed at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., December 18, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Former U.S. national security adviser Michael Flynn passes by members of the media as he departs after his sentencing was delayed at U.S. District Court in Washington, U.S., December 18, 2018. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Prosecutors called several former Flynn Intel Group associates during four days of testimony in July. One of those associates was Brian McCauley, a former FBI official who worked as a contractor for Flynn. McCauley testified that Rafiekian said he wanted to avoid registering as a foreign agent of Turkey, and that he wanted to keep FIG’s work “under the radar.”

McCauley also testified that Rafiekian asked him if he could still access classified FBI files on Gulen, and whether he would be willing to conduct surveillance of the imam’s supporters in the U.S. McCauley said he rebuffed both inquiries.

Rafiekian’s lawyer, Mark MacDougall, argued during closing arguments Monday that the government had failed to prove that Rafiekian was working at the direction of the Turkish government.

Prosecutors acknowledged that they did not have evidence the Turkish government paid for the Gulen investigation. But they did cite emails that showed Flynn, Rafiekian and Alptekin suggesting that Turkish government officials were being briefed on the project. Alptekin indicated in one August 2016 email that a Turkish government official had given the “green light” for the project.

Flynn, Rafiekian, Alptekin and McCauley, who retired in 2015, attended a Sept. 19, 2016 meeting in New York City with two top Turkish government officials.

Flynn, who served as President Donald Trump’s national security adviser for 24 days, ultimately wrote an op-ed in The Hill on Nov. 8 2016 that accused Gulen of being a radical Islamist.

Prosecutors initially planned to call Flynn as a witness at Rafiekian’s trial. Flynn has cooperated with the government’s investigation as a condition of his plea agreement in the special counsel’s Russia investigation. But prosecutors reversed course on Flynn on July 3, declaring him an unindicted co-conspirator in the case.

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