An indictment unsealed in Washington, D.C., Monday charges a San Juan Capistrano man and a Turkish national, who were associates of former national security adviser Michael Flynn, with various federal crimes, including acting as illegal agents of Turkey.
The indictment charges 66-year-old Bijan Rafiekian, also known as Bijan Kian, and Kamil Ekim Alptekin, 41, of Istanbul, 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 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 Turkish citizen in question is believed to be exiled imam Fethullah Gulen, who lives in Pennsylvania and who has been blamed by Turkey for a coup attempt in July last year, a charge Gulen denies.
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The indictment doesn't name Flynn or Gulen, but it refers to a Flynn- penned op-ed supporting the Turkish government and critical of Gulen that was published by The Hill on election day 2016. "From Turkey's point of view, Washington is harboring Turkey's Osama bin Laden," Flynn wrote in the editorial. The indictment alleges the plot included using a company founded by Rafiekian and an individual identified only as "Person A," allegedly referring to Flynn.
The company, referred to as "Company A" in the indictment, provided services based upon Person A's national security expertise, the indictment alleges. The indictment charges that the purpose of the conspiracy was to use Company A to "de-legitimize" the Turkish citizen in the eyes of the American public and U.S. politicians, with the goal of obtaining his extradition, which has been resisted in Washington.
At the same time, the conspirators allegedly 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 federal prosecutors. According to 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 allegedly 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. Two such kickbacks were allegedly made. Rafiekian is charged with conspiracy and acting in the U.S. as an illegal agent of the government of Turkey.
If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the conspiracy charge, and 10 years in prison for the charge of acting as an agent of a foreign government. Alptekin is charged with conspiracy, acting in the U.S. as an illegal agent of the government of Turkey, and four counts of making false statements to the FBI.
If convicted, he faces a maximum penalty of five years in prison for the conspiracy charge, 10 years in prison for the charge of acting as an agent of a foreign government, and five years in prison for each of the four false statement charges. Assistant U.S. Attorney James P. Gillis of the Eastern District of Virginia and Trial Attorney Evan N. Turgeon of the National Security Division's Counterintelligence and Export Control Section are prosecuting the case.