Jury Convicts Flynn Intel Group Founder of Conspiring to Act as an Undisclosed Agent of Turkey
After three hours of deliberations a federal jury convicted a California man today on charges of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government, conspiring to make false statements and willful omissions in a FARA filing, and acting as an agent of a foreign government.
John C. Demers, Assistant Attorney General for National Security, G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia, and John P. Selleck, Acting Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s Washington Field Office, made the announcement after U.S. District Judge Anthony J. Trenga accepted the verdict.
“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. “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.”
“Rafiekian was held accountable for his actions and found guilty by a jury of his peers,” said G. Zachary Terwilliger, U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Virginia. “I want to thank the investigators and prosecutors for their thorough investigation, extensive briefing, and commitment to this case.”
According to court records and evidence presented at trial, Bijan Rafiekian, 67, of San Juan Capistrano, California, along with his co-conspirator, Kamil Ekim Alptekin, 42, of Istanbul, a Turkish national with close ties to the highest levels of the Government of Turkey, were involved in a conspiracy to covertly influence United States politicians and public opinion against a Turkish national, Fethullah Gulen, who is living in the United States. The Government of Turkey had filed two extradition requests for Gulen, and has been trying to convince the Department of Justice to extradite Gulen back to Turkey since 2015. The conspiracy included using the Flynn Intel Group (FIG), a company founded by Rafiekian and Michael T. Flynn, which provided services based upon Flynn’s national security expertise.
According to court documents, the purpose of the conspiracy was to use FIG 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 was Rafiekian told by Alptekin that Turkish cabinet-level officials had approved the budget for the project, but Alptekin also told Rafiekian that he provided the Turkish officials updates on the work. Rafiekian understood that Alptekin was relaying the Turkish officials’ directions on the work to Rafiekian, Flynn, and others at FIG.
According to court documents, the scheme included using a Dutch shell company, Inovo, owned by Alptekin to act as FIG’s “client.” FIG was paid $600,000 in three installments from an account in Turkey in Alptekin’s name. After Alptekin made the payments to FIG, FIG kicked back 20 percent of the payments to Alptekin’s company in the Netherlands, with two such kickbacks being made.
Rafiekian faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison when sentenced on October 18. Actual sentences for federal crimes are typically less than the maximum penalties. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after taking into account the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.
Assistant U.S. Attorneys James P. Gillis, John T. Gibbs, Aidan T. Grano, Trial Attorney Evan N. Turgeon of the Department of Justice’s Counterintelligence and Export Control Section, and Special Assistant United States Attorney Stephanie K. Sweeten are prosecuting the case.