Exclusive - U.S. investigators in Russia
probe look at role of Flynn partner
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[June 20, 2017]
By Nathan Layne and Julia Edwards Ainsley
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Federal investigators
probing the lobbying work of ousted national security adviser Michael
Flynn are focused in part on the role of Bijan Kian, Flynn’s former
business partner, according to a person interviewed by the FBI.
Investigators are also looking at whether payments from foreign clients
to Flynn and his company, the now-inactive Flynn Intel Group, were
lawful, according to two separate sources with knowledge of the broad
inquiry into Flynn's business activities. That includes payments by
three Russian companies and a Netherlands-based company, Inovo,
controlled by Turkish businessman Ekim Alptekin, they said.
The FBI's interest in Kian has not been previously reported. Kian played
a central role in securing and overseeing the Inovo contract, two people
with knowledge of that project said.
It is not clear whether Kian is a target of the criminal investigation
or whether investigators are trying to build a fuller understanding of
how Flynn's company operated.
A person recently interviewed by the FBI in connection with the Flynn
investigation said agents from the bureau's criminal division had asked
as much about Kian and his work on the project with Alptekin as they had
Kian did not respond to repeated requests for comment, nor did the
lawyer he recently hired, Robert Trout. The FBI declined to comment.
Flynn's lawyer, Robert Kelner, did not respond to requests for comment.
Alptekin declined to comment for this story but last month told Reuters
that he was satisfied with the work done by Flynn Intel Group and denied
The FBI has been investigating whether Flynn's consulting firm lobbied
on behalf of Turkey - after being paid $530,000 by Inovo - without
making the proper disclosure, Reuters reported earlier this month.
The federal investigation is being run by special counsel Robert
Mueller. Mueller has a mandate to investigate contacts between Russia
and Trump's 2016 election campaign team and any related matters. Flynn
was fired by the Trump administration in February after officials said
he mischaracterized a series of phone calls with Russia’s ambassador
The top Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government
Reform, which has separately been looking into whether Flynn made false
statements in applying for security clearance, said he was also
"I have an interest in Bijan Kian and his interactions with General
Flynn based on specific documents already obtained by the Committee,”
Elijah Cummings told Reuters in an email.
Kelner has sought immunity for Flynn in exchange for his testimony,
saying his client "certainly has a story to tell."
FAILED COUP OPENS A DOOR
In private conversations with potential clients, Kian portrayed himself
as a rainmaker for Flynn, tapping into connections cultivated during a
five-year tenure as a director at the U.S. Export-Import Bank, according
to one person who worked with the firm.
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REUTERS/Carlos Barria/File Picture
Alptekin told Reuters in May that his firm hired Flynn Intel Group
to research Gulen's activities in the United States, which he
suspected were "poisoning" relations between the United States and
Turkey. Like Turkey President Tayyip Erdogan, Alptekin blamed the
coup on followers of Gulen.
Gulen has denied any role in the coup and dismisses Turkey’s
allegations that he heads a terrorist organization.
Kian oversaw key elements of the project that emerged, including a
still-unfinished documentary on Gulen, according to two people
involved in the project.
Inovo paid Flynn Intel Group a total of $530,000, starting in
September, according to a Justice Department filing by the company
in March. Flynn Intel Group paid $80,000 to Inovo in "consultancy
fees," according to the filing, which does not provide more detail
on why payments were made in both directions.
On Sept. 19, Kian and Flynn met in New York with Turkey's foreign
minister and energy minister, who is Erdogan's son-in-law, according
to a person with knowledge of the meeting.
In late October Kian invited staff of the House Homeland Security
Committee to Flynn Intel Group's headquarters in Virginia. The
meeting was called to show off new mobile phone security technology,
but Kian also used the opportunity to try to get a congressional
hearing on Gulen, according to a person at the meeting.
At that point, the Flynn Intel Group had only disclosed its work for
Alptekin's Inovo in a filing with Congress. It had not mentioned
Inovo’s ties to Turkey.
When Justice Department officials became aware months later that
Kian and other Flynn Intel Group officials had met with Turkish
officials they insisted on a fuller disclosure, people involved in
those discussions said.
The Flynn Intel Group made the more detailed disclosure in its March
filing with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents
Registration Act that said the work that Flynn and Kian did for
Inovo “could be construed to have principally benefited the Republic
(Reporting by Nathan Layne; Additional reporting by John Walcott,
Julia Harte and Jonathan Landay in Washington; Editing by Kevin
Krolicki and Ross Colvin)
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