LOS ANGELES (CBSLA) – A 66-year-old San Juan Capistrano man has been charged by federal prosecutors with working as an illegal agent on behalf of the Turkish government.
Bijan Rafiekian, also known as Bijan Kian — a Turkish national and business associate of former National Security Advisor Michael Flynn — was charged with conspiracy, acting in the United States as illegal agents of the government of Turkey, and making false statements to the FBI, according to an indictment unsealed Monday.
Also charged in the indictment was 41-year-old Kamil Ekim Alptekin of Istanbul.
According to the Justice Department, the two men attempted to “covertly influence U.S. politicians and public opinion” against a Turkish citizen. The Justice Department did not name the citizen, but it is believed to be the exiled imam Fethullah Gulen, CBS News reports.
Gulen lives in Pennsylvania as a political exile and has been blamed by Turkey for the failed coup attempt in July 2016 against Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Erdogan has been attempting to extradite Gulen ever since.
The indictment alleges the plot included using a company founded by Kian and an individual identified only as “Person A,” believed to be Flynn.
Flynn is not identified by name anywhere in the indictment.
The indictment notes that Kian was vice chairman of Flynn’s business group, the Flynn Intel Group, which is referred to in the indictment as Company A, CBS News reports.
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.
If convicted, Rafiekian 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.
In December of 2017, Flynn plead guilty to lying to the FBI during its investigation of Russian interference during the 2016 presidential election.