Former Michael Flynn Business Associates Indicted in Turkey Lobbying Case

WASHINGTON — Two former business associates of Michael T. Flynn, President Trump’s first national security adviser, have been indicted as part of a federal investigation into Turkey’s secret 2016 lobbying campaign to pressure the United States to expel a rival of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

Charges against the two former associates, Bijan Kian and Ekim Alptekin, were unsealed on Monday in an Alexandria, Va., courtroom. The two men were charged with a conspiracy to violate federal lobbying rules, and Mr. Alptekin also was charged with making false statements to F.B.I. investigators.

The indictment is further evidence of a broad crackdown on unregistered foreign lobbying growing from the inquiry by Robert S. Mueller III, the special counsel who has investigated foreign flows of money from Ukraine, Turkey and other countries designed to manipulate decision-making in Washington. Mr. Mueller referred the Turkey case to prosecutors in Northern Virginia earlier this year.

The investigation into Turkish lobbying began in 2016 after Mr. Flynn — a former general and businessman who was advising Mr. Trump’s political campaign — wrote an op-ed for The Hill newspaper on Election Day attacking Fethullah Gulen, a cleric living in Pennsylvania whom the Turkish government has accused of helping instigate a failed coup.

The article called Mr. Gulen a “radical Islamist” and a “shady Islamic mullah.” The prosecutors began examining whether Mr. Flynn and his company — Flynn Intel Group — were working as paid lobbyists for Turkey. Mr. Kian helped engineer the lobbying project, which involved trying to persuade members of Congress that Mr. Gulen ought to be extradited.

Mr. Flynn and Mr. Kian also commissioned a lengthy dossier titled “Fethullah Gulen: A Primer for Investigators,” which was written by Thomas Neer, a former F.B.I. agent.

Mr. Alptekin is a Turkish businessman close to President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey who helped finance the project.

In 2017, Mr. Flynn and Mr. Kian filed additional lobbying disclosures acknowledging that the Gulen project “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic of Turkey.” They detailed payments to other people and firms associated with the Gulen project.

When he pleaded guilty last December to lying to F.B.I agents working on the Russia investigation, Mr. Flynn also admitted to prosecutors that he had repeatedly violated laws requiring firms to register their work on behalf of foreign clients.

Earlier this month, Mr. Mueller’s prosecutors issued a sentencing memorandum saying that Mr. Flynn had provided “substantial help” in several unspecified but continuing investigations. It is believed that the Turkey inquiry is one of these investigations, since he had direct knowledge of different aspects of the inquiry.

Prosecutors cited Mr. Flynn’s assistance as grounds for leniency when a judge sentences him on Dec. 18.

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