A former business partner of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn faces up to 15 years in prison after being charged with acting on behalf of a foreign government, the Justice Department said Monday.
Flynn is referred to as “Person A” in the indictment, which alleges that from July 2017 to March 2017 Bijan Rafiekian, 66, an Iranian-American who lives in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., and Flynn conspired to “covertly influence U.S. politicians and public opinion against a Turkish citizen living in the United States.”
The Turkish citizen targeted by Flynn and Rafiekian is Fethullah Gülen, an imam who runs a number of charities and schools in Turkey, and lives in Pennsylvania. Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan claims that Gülen is responsible for directing the failed 2016 coup against his government.
Also charged in the indictment was 41-year-old Turkish national Kamil Ekim Alptekin, who remains at large and faces up to 35 years in prison for conspiracy, acting in the United States as an illegal agent of the government of Turkey and four counts of making false statements to the FBI.
The indictment alleges that $600,000, traced back to the Turkish government, was funneled through Flynn’s lobbying firm based in Alexandria, Va., to delegitimize Gülen in an effort to compel the State Department to extradite Erdogan’s foe. At the same time, the men are accused of tried to hide Turkey’s involvement while providing Turkish officials with work updates.
Flynn, who is cooperating with special counsel Robert Mueller’s ongoing investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, served as President Trump’s national security advisor for just under a month after Trump’s inauguration. Flynn, a former three-star U.S. Army General and director of the Defense Intelligence Agency, faces sentencing on Dec. 18. Mueller, lauding Flynn’s cooperation, is recommending that he serve zero to six months.