Bijan Kian, a onetime business partner of former National Security Advisor Mike Flynn, has been indicted by a federal grand jury for allegedly acting as an unregistered foreign agent, and engaging in a conspiracy, related to a lobbying campaign aimed to encourage the extradition of a U.S.-based Turkish cleric whose long been an enemy of the Turkish government.
Kian, whose full name is Bijan Rafiekian, appeared Monday at a federal courthouse in Alexandria, Virginia after the grand jury handed down the indictment last week. The charges were brought by prosecutors in the Eastern District of Virginia and the Justice Department’s National Security Division.
Also charged in the indictment is Ekim Alptekin, who, according to the Washington Post, remains abroad. Alptekin faces charges of making false statements to the FBI, in addition to the same conspiracy and acting as a unregistered foreign agent counts Kian faces.
The indictment details Alptekin and Rafiekian’s alleged efforts with an individual known as “Person A,” who appears to be Flynn. Flynn pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI last year and has been cooperating with prosecutors since. His sentencing hearing is scheduled for Tuesday.
The lobbying effort, dubbed the “Truth Campaign” and “Project Confidence,” was born in the summer of 2016, according to the indictment, after the the Justice Department denied Turkey’s request to extradite the cleric, Fethullah Gulen. At the time, Flynn was advising Donald Trump’s presidential campaign and was a frequent speaker at his rallies.
After proposals were drafted and there were multiple discussions with Turkish officials, the campaign had been solidified by September in a contract offering Flynn and Kian’s company $600,000 — in three $200,000 installments — from Alptekin’s company.
Alptekin and Kian also worked out that Alptekin would receive 20 percent of the payment to Kian’s company for serving as an “outside advisor” to the campaign, according to the indictment. The first installment was wired to Kian and Flynn’s company on Sept. 9, the indictment said.
Through September and October 2016, Kian and others involved in the campaign lobbied a member of Congress, a congressional staffer and a state government official that Gulen should be sent back to Turkey and that Congress hold hearings on him, according to the indictment.
Kian, Flynn and Alptekin also met with two top Turkish officials in New York on Sept. 19, 2016 according to the indictment. Prior to the meeting, they passed around background information and talking points about Gulen to prepare for the meeting, the indictment said.
At the meeting, “[t]he conversation centered on the Turkish citizen and the Turkish government’s efforts to convince the U.S. government to extradite the Turkish citizen to Turkey,” according to the indictment.
The meeting was first reported last year by the Wall Street Journal and was also attended by former CIA Director James Woolsey. Woolsey told the Journal that ousting Gulen via methods beyond the legal extradition process — “a covert step in the dead of night to whisk this guy away” — was also discussed. But the new indictment makes no reference of such a discussion. The two Turkish officials at the meeting, according to the Journal, were Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Energy Minister Berat Albayrak, who is also the son-in-law of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoga.
After being pressured by Alptekin that there was not enough negative publicity of Gulen, Kian on Nov. 2 sent him a draft op-ed, according to the indictment. The draft echoed some of the language that was in previous proposals about the lobbying project, and was a few days later, on Election Day, published on The Hill under Flynn’s name, according to the indictment.
The op-ed caught the attention of the Justice Department division in charge of enforcing the Foreign Action Registration Act (FARA), and the division sent Flynn a letter seeking to understand whether he was required to register under the law, according to the indictment. Attorneys for Flynn’s company worked from January through March 2017 trying to figure out what registration was required, and during that process they were misled by Kian and Alptekin, the indictment alleged.
Kian misled the attorneys about certain meetings he had with Turkish officials and claimed that they were unrelated to the project, according to the indictment. He also told the attorneys that Flynn wrote the op-ed on his own and that it had nothing to do with the lobbying project, the indictment said. Alptekin, meanwhile, claimed that he was not consulted about the op-ed and would have opposed it if he had, according to the filing. Those, and other false claims made by Kian and Alptekin led to the filing of false FARA forms in March 2017, according to the indictment.
Alptekin was also interviewed by the FBI in May 2017, where, the indictment alleges, he made four false statements. The false statements, according to the indictment, were about why his company retained Flynn’s company, his discussions with a Turkish minister and his explanation for money Flynn’s company wired back to him as part of the alleged kickback scheme.
Correction: Counts 3-6 of the indictment charge only Alptekin, not Kian.
Read the indictment below: