Friday 15 December 2017

Flynn's former business partner focus of FBI scrutiny

Former General Michael Flynn
Former General Michael Flynn

Nathan Layne in New York

Federal investigators probing the lobbying work of ousted US national security adviser Michael Flynn are focused in part on the role of Bijan Kian, Mr Flynn's former business partner, according to a person quizzed by the FBI.

Investigators are also looking at whether payments from foreign clients to Mr Flynn and his company, the now-inactive Flynn Intel Group, were lawful, according to two separate sources with knowledge of the inquiry. 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 Mr Kian has not been previously reported. Mr 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 Mr Kian is a target of the criminal investigation or whether investigators are trying to build a fuller understanding of how Mr 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 Mr Kian and his work on the project with Mr Alptekin as they had about Mr Flynn.

Mr Kian did not respond to repeated requests for comment. The FBI declined to comment.

Mr Flynn's lawyer, Robert Kelner, did not respond to requests for comment.

Mr Alptekin declined to comment for this story but last month denied any wrongdoing.

The FBI has been investigating whether Mr Flynn's consulting firm lobbied on behalf of Turkey - after being paid $530,000 by Inovo - without making the proper disclosure.

The federal investigation is being run by special counsel Robert Mueller, who has a mandate to investigate contacts between Russia and Mr Trump's 2016 election campaign team and any related matters. Mr Flynn was fired by the Trump administration in February after officials said he mischaracterised a series of phone calls with Russia's ambassador last December.

The top Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which has separately been looking into whether Mr Flynn made false statements in applying for security clearance, said he was also scrutinising Mr Kian.

"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.

Mr Kelner has sought immunity for Mr Flynn in exchange for his testimony, saying his client "certainly has a story to tell".

In private conversations with potential clients, Mr Kian portrayed himself as a rainmaker for Mr Flynn, tapping into connections cultivated during a five-year tenure as a director at the US Export-Import Bank, according to one person who worked with the firm.

Mr Alptekin said in May that his firm hired Flynn Intel Group to research Gulen activities in the US, which he suspected were "poisoning" relations between the US and Turkey.

Irish Independent

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