An Iranian-American businessman who served on President Donald Trump’s transition team appears to be the linchpin connecting ousted national security adviser Michael Flynn with a Turkish businessman who paid Flynn’s consulting firm more than $500,000 to lobby for Turkish interests during the 2016 campaign.
Bijan Kian, a co-founder of Flynn Intel Group, first met the businessman, Ekim Alptekin, through Kian’s work promoting U.S. business interests abroad for the Export-Import bank, according to a report out Tuesday from the Associated Press. After Kian’s tenure with the bank ended in 2011, the two men’s ties deepened. That year, Alptekin brought Kian on as vice chairman of his Istanbul-based aviation company. Kian also named Alptekin a board director of the Nowruz Commission, a Washington, D.C. nonprofit promoting the Persian New Year that Kian co-founded.
TPM previously reported that the commission, known for hosting splashy annual galas, served as a nexus between Alptekin, Kian and Flynn years before the Turkish businessman paid Flynn Intel Group $530,000 to produce negative PR materials on an exiled Turkish cleric loathed by that nation’s president.
Alptekin has insisted that this campaign was not carried out at the request of Turkey’s government and that it was all “legal” and “fully transparent,” as he told the AP. Both Kian, who Alptekin told the AP handled “the day-to-day details,” and Flynn retroactively registered in March as foreign agents for their work.
Federal investigators are probing Flynn’s work for foreign governments as part of a sprawling investigation into Russia’s interference in the 2016 election.
While the AP report sheds light on how Alptekin linked up with FIG for the lobbying contract, it doesn’t explain how Flynn and Kian first met. It did note that Flynn served on the board of Kian’s technology firm, GreenZone Systems, and that the pair apparently bonded over strong opposition to Iran’s government. They went on to found Flynn Intel Group in 2014 before most recently working together on the Trump transition team, where Kian was an adviser on national security matters.
Read the full AP report here.