Ex-Flynn business partner convicted for conspiring to act as foreign agent

Michael Flynn’s former business partner was convicted Tuesday for illegally lobbying in the U.S. on behalf of the Turkish government.

Bijan Kian, who co-founded the Flynn Intel Group, was convicted by a federal jury in Virginia on charges of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government, conspiring to make false statements and willful omissions in a Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filing, as well as acting as an agent of a foreign government.

Kian, also known as Bijan Rafiekian, will be sentenced in October. He faces up to 15 years in prison, though defendants are typically sentenced to less than the maximum penalty under federal sentencing guidelines, the Justice Department noted.

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“Today’s verdict should stand as a deterrent to any malign foreign influence that undermines the integrity of our political processes,” Assistant Attorney General John Demers said in a statement.

“Through misrepresentations in his FARA filing, Mr. Rafiekian attempted to deceive the public and influence key leaders on behalf of Turkey. The Department of Justice treats these crimes with the gravity that they deserve.”

The Department of Justice (DOJ) said Kian worked with Kamil Ekim Alptekin, a Turkish national with connections to the government in Ankara, to conspire to influence U.S. politicians and public opinion against Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric living in Pennsylvania.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has accused Gülen of orchestrating a failed 2016 coup and Ankara has been attempting to persuade Washington to extradite Gülen to Turkey since 2015.

Prosecutors said Kian and Alptekin intended to use Flynn Intel Group to tarnish Gülen’s public image in the U.S., with the hopes that a damaged reputation would increase pressure for his extradition.

The two conspirators also sought to hide the Turkish government’s involvement in the plot, though Alptekin told Kian that that he provided Turkish officials updates on their work, the DOJ said.

Flynn and Kian received hundreds of thousands of dollars through their business, which prosecutors say was funneled through a Dutch shell company. 

Prosecutors made their case without testimony from Flynn, who was never charged in connection with the Turkish lobbying campaign but admitted to making false statements in FARA filings as part of a deal to cooperate with special counsel Robert MuellerRobert (Bob) Swan MuellerThis week: Mueller dominates chaotic week on Capitol Hill Top Republican considered Mueller subpoena to box in Democrats Kamala Harris says her Justice Dept would have ‘no choice’ but to prosecute Trump for obstruction MORE.

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