Two former business associates of President Trump’s ex-national security adviser Michael Flynn have been charged with illegally lobbying the US to extradite an enemy of the Turkish government, according to new reports.
The charges against Bijan Kian and Ekim Alptekin were unsealed Monday in Virginia court, the New York Times reports.
Kian, who was a partner at Flynn Intel Group, appeared in court, while Alptekin, a Turkish businessman, remains in Turkey, according to the Washington Post.
Both were charged with a conspiracy to violate federal lobbying rules for attempting to pressure the US into extraditing Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen — a foe of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan who is exiled in Pennsylvania, the Times reports.
Alptekin, who allegedly organized and directed the lobbying campaign on behalf of the Turkish government, was also charged with making false statements to FBI investigators.
Prosecutors began investigating whether Flynn and his company were acting as paid lobbyists for Turkey after he wrote an op-ed for the political website The Hill calling Gulen a “shady Islamic mullah,” the Times reports.
Flynn and Kian also commissioned a former FBI agent to write a dossier on Gulen, and in 2017 filed lobbying disclosures acknowledging their efforts “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey,” according to the paper.
Flynn in 2017 pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents about his lobbying work, and earlier this month, special counsel Robert Mueller’s office said he’d since provided “substantial assistance” in its investigations.
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