On December 17, 2018, the U.S. Attorney in the Eastern District of Virginia announced the unsealing of an indictment, charging two men associated with former Trump National Security Advisor Michael Flynn with conspiracy, acting in the United States as unregistered agents of the government of Turkey, and making false statements to the FBI in connection with efforts by the Turkiish government to extradite Fethullah Gulen from the U.S.
The indictment (available on the E.D.Va. website by searching for Case No. 1:18-cr-457) alleges, Bijan Rafiekian, aka Bijan Kian, 66, of San Juan Capistrano, California, and Kamil Ekim Alptekin, 41, of Istanbul, a Turkish national with close ties to the highest levels of the Government of Turkey, engaged in a conspiracy to covertly influence U.S. politicians and public opinion against Gulen who lives in Pennsylvania whose extradition had been requested by the Government of Turkey. The plot included using a company founded by Rafiekian and a person referred to as “Person A” in the indictment. The Flynn Intel Group, referred to as “Company A” in the indictment, provided services based upon Michael Flynn’s national security expertise.
According to the indictment, the purpose of the conspiracy was to use the Flynn Intel Group to delegitimize Gulen in the eyes of the American public and U.S. politicians, with the goal of obtaining his extradition, which was meeting resistance at the U.S. Department of Justice and still meets resistance. Simultaneously, the conspirators sought to conceal that the Government of Turkey was directing the work. However, not only did Turkish cabinet-level officials approve the budget for the project, but Alptekin provided the Turkish officials updates on the work, and relayed their directions on the work to Rafiekian, Flynn, and others at the Flynn Intel Group.
The indictment alleges the scheme included using a Dutch company owned by Alptekin to appear to be the “client” of the Flynn Intel Group to pay the company’s fee of $600,000, which was to be paid in three installments. Alptekin made the payments from an account in Turkey. The indictment alleges that after Alptekin made the payments to the Flynn Intel Group, it was to kick back 20 percent of the payments to Alptekin’s company in the Netherlands, and two such kickbacks were made.
The indictment charges Rafiekian with conspiracy and acting in the U.S. as an unregistered agent of the government of Turkey. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison for the conspiracy charge and 10 years in prison for the charge of acting as an agent of a foreign government.
Alptekin is charged with conspiracy, acting in the U.S. as an unregistered agent of the government of Turkey, and four counts of making false statements to the FBI. If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of 5 years in prison for the conspiracy charge, 10 years in prison for the charge of acting as an agent of a foreign government, and 5 years in prison for each of the four false statement charges.
The indictment coincided with the sentencing hearing for Michael Flynn on December 17. Flynn admitted in his plea that he lied to the FBI about conversation with Russia’s ambassador to the U.S. and that he misrepresented in Justice Department documents his work for the Turkish government. However, after Judge Emmett G. Sullivan warned Flynn he may be incarcerated if he was sentenced on that day, in part for working in secret for the Turkish government while on the transition team, Flynn decided to postpone the sentencing to allow him an opportunity to continue cooperating with the special counsel.
Initially Judge Sullivan accused Flynn of acting as “an unregistered agent of a foreign country, while serving as the national security adviser to the president of the United States.” Subsequently, Judge Sullivan apologized and observed that Flynn worked for Turkey when he was on the Trump campaign, rather than when he was in the Trump government.
The indictment of Kian and Alptekin, combined with the comments of Judge Sullivan and the Flynn decision to postpone the sentencing, show the continued efforts to investigate and prosecute failure of lobbyists for foreign principals to register as well as the filing of false registration statements. The prosecutions of Paul Manafort and Rick Gates and ongoing investigations of Gregory B. Craig and Tony Podesta have contained aspects of violations of the Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).
Unfortunately for Turkey the effort to use lobbyists and conceal their work on persuading the U.S. to extradite Gulen further undermines its long but unsuccessful effort to show probable cause that Gulen committed extraditable crimes for which the U.S. should extradite Gulen. Once again, if the allegations of the indictment are proved, another foreign principal and agents may have failed to take seriously the requirements of FARA.
The fact that Judge Sullivan expressed disgust at Flynn for using his high-level contacts with the White House during the transition does not bode well for President Trump’s defense of his earning money on a daily basis from his hotels and other businesses in one of the emoluments cases over which Judge Sullivan presides and has already rejected the President’s efforts to dismiss.
 Indictment, at pp. 17-18.
 Id. at 18-20.
 Spencer Hsu, Matt Zapotosky and Carol Leonnig, Michael Flynn’s sentencing delayed after judge tells the ex-Trump adviser he might not avoid prison time, Wash. Post, Dec. 18, 2018 https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/michael-flynn-trumps-former-national-security-adviser-scheduled-to-be-sentenced/2018/12/17/19ce1bb4-0247-11e9-b5df-5d3874f1ac36_story.html?utm_term=.455fb95982ac