The Department of Justice today announced the indictment of two men connected to Michael Flynn who carried out a covert influence campaign to extradite a Turkish citizen living in the United States on behalf of the Turkish government. One of the two men does business with the Russian government. The other worked on the Trump transition team.
From the Associated Press in June 2017:
For [Bijan] Kian, who led most of Flynn Intel Group’s research and lobbying for a Turkish businessman, the Trump transition role offered influence in the selection of intelligence agency candidates and access to internal discussions of U.S. national security policy.
Flynn is "Person A' in the indictment.
An indictment was unsealed today charging Bijan Rafiekian, aka Bijan Kian, 66, of San Juan Capistrano, California, and Kamil Ekim Alptekin, 41, of Istanbul, and a Turkish national, with conspiracy, acting in the United States as illegal agents of the government of Turkey, and making false statements to the FBI.
According to allegations in the indictment, the two men were involved in a conspiracy to covertly influence U.S. politicians and public opinion against a Turkish citizen living in the United States 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 company, referred to as “Company A” in the indictment, provided services based upon Person A’s national security expertise.
The indictment charges that the purpose of the conspiracy was to use Company A to delegitimize the Turkish citizen in the eyes of the American public and United States politicians, with the goal of obtaining his extradition, which was meeting resistance at the U.S. Department of Justice. At the same time, 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, Person A, and others at Company A.
According to allegations in the indictment, the scheme included using a Dutch company owned by Alptekin to appear to be the “client” of Company A and 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 Company A, it was to kick back 20 percent of the payments to Alptekin’s company in the Netherlands, and two such kickbacks were made.
Kian made an appearance in federal court in Virginia Monday morning. He was released on bail.
The 66-year-old Californian, whom authorities say worked closely with Flynn on the lobbying effort throughout 2016, will appear in court again Tuesday. There is still a warrant out for the arrest of Alptekin, who lives in Istanbul.
The two men were indicted by a federal grand jury last week.
US authorities said the goal of the lobbying project was to press for the extradition of the Turkish cleric Fethullah Gulen, who has lived in self-imposed exile in Pennsylvania since 1999. The Turkish government and President Recep Tayyip Erdogan blame Gulen for a failed attempted coup against him in 2016, which Gulen has denied, and has been aggressively pushing for the US government to extradite him.
President Donald Trump said last month that he is not considering extraditing Gulen.
Throughout the Turkish lobbying case made public Monday, Flynn is referred to as "Person A." The indictment describes Kian discussing with Flynn meeting with Turkish leaders and accepting payments through Flynn's company throughout 2016 for the lobbying work. They worked on the lobbying project as late as October 2016, a month before Trump won the election and Flynn helped with the presidential transition.
Politico reports Alptekin "has business ties to Russia, including a 2009 aviation financing deal negotiated with Vladimir Putin."
... Ekim Alptekin ... has in recent years helped to coordinate Turkish lobbying in Washington with Dmitri “David” Zaikin, a Soviet-born former executive in Russian energy and mining companies who also has had dealings with Putin’s government ...
Although Turkey is a NATO ally, its president, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, has grown increasingly authoritarian and friendly with Putin. And the hiring of Flynn by Alptekin came at a time when Flynn was working for Trump’s campaign and Putin’s government was under investigation for interfering with the U.S. election.
The revelation of Russian business ties to the man who hired Flynn threatens to complicate the White House’s struggle to escape the shadow of the FBI investigation into whether members of the Trump campaign coordinated with Russian agents.
Zaikin, 49, was born in Ukraine and grew up as a citizen of the Soviet Union. He said in emails that doctors excused him from the Soviet military draft because of an injury, and that his family left the Soviet Union in 1990. He subsequently became a Canadian citizen and now lives in London.
In the 2000s, Zaikin was an executive in Russia’s oil industry at a time when Putin was consolidating control over the country’s mineral wealth to the financial benefit of himself and the circle of oligarchs who are his key supporters and associates.
As chairman and CEO of a company called Siberian Energy Group, Zaikin obtained mineral interests and exploration licenses in Russia’s Kurgan province, according to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission.
Siberian Energy Group’s dealings under Zaikin were characteristic of the equity trades, offshore financing schemes and consulting agreements that Putin’s allies have used to protect and hide assets.
In 2008, Zaikin made a deal with an ex-KGB oligarch involved in the giant state oil company Gazprom. Zaikin’s company sold the oligarch a 2.5 percent stake in a subsidiary, known as KNG, for shares worth $10, equivalent to valuing the entire subsidiary at $400, according to SEC disclosures. That came less than two years after Zaikin’s company bought KNG for the equivalent of $2.7 million.
The same month as the deal with the oligarch, Zaikin’s company issued shares to a limited liability company in Moscow called Business Standard. In 2007, Zaikin’s company agreed to pay the firm thousands more shares in exchange for what the contract called “certain consulting services,” including help in obtaining oil and gas drilling licenses from the Russian government.
Zaikin was also a director of a subsidiary called Zauralneftegaz that explored for oil and gas in West Siberia. The company was in part controlled by shell companies set up by a London law firm involved in the Panama Papers, the massive leak of records from an offshore finance law firm that showed how Putin associates secretly moved around $2 billion in assets.
Alptekin has had his own business dealings in Russia.
As a partner in an investment group called ETIRC as early as 2006, Alptekin bought a stake in a New Mexico jet manufacturer called Eclipse Aviation. In September 2008, Eclipse announced plans to build a $205 million factory in Russia financed by Russian state bank Vnesheconombank, whose board was chaired by Putin, then prime minister. A photo in the trade press showed Putin personally inspecting one of Eclipse’s jets.
But a month later, Eclipse filed for bankruptcy protection. Alptekin and his partners planned to buy out the company with financing from the Putin-chaired bank. Putin was personally involved in approving a loan from the bank to Eclipse, according to court records.
“The Eclipse project is one of the top priority to be funded and has been approved by Prime Minister Putin,” the minutes of an Eclipse board meeting Feb. 16, 2009, said, referring to ETIRC’s planned purchase of Eclipse.
But the funding apparently never materialized, and the sale didn’t go through. Instead, Alptekin and partners bought the old company’s assets for $40 million and formed a company called Eclipse Aerospace. When the company sought bankruptcy protection, it had declared assets valued at almost $1.1 billion.
“I think it was a good deal,” Alptekin said in his interview with POLITICO.
Alptekin acknowledged ETIRC’s negotiations with the bank chaired by Putin, but said he never interacted with any Russian officials. There are no Russians involved in the new company, he said.
Today, that company, known as EA Group, markets Eclipse jets in Turkey, Russia and the Middle East, according to its website. But Alptekin, in his POLITICO interview, said he lost the license to market the jets in Russia because he failed to sell any.
The company also has an arms-dealing division, focusing on Turkey and the Middle East. Alptekin said he sold video surveillance equipment for Turkish police helicopters and declined to discuss his other deals. He said the arms division isn’t active currently.
Read more: Flynn’s Turkish lobbying linked to Russia (Politico)