Special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation into former National Security Adviser Mike Flynn’s interactions with Turkish officials has expanded to include Flynn’s former business partner, Bijan Kian, Reuters reported Tuesday. However, the news agency said it’s unclear whether Kian is suspected of criminal activity, or if investigators are just trying to understand the role he played in a transaction involving their old company, Flynn Intel Group, and a Netherlands-based company owned by a Turkish businessman who’s believed to have connections with the Turkish government.
The announcement also has implications for the Trump administration. Kian had a hand in picking intelligence agency personnel and was privy to high-level conversations regarding US intelligence as a member of President Donald Trump’s national security transition team. He also led most of the Flynn Intel Group’s research and lobbying for the Turkish businessman in question, the Associated Press reported.
“Investigators are also looking at whether payments from foreign clients to Flynn and his company…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.
A person recently interviewed by the FBI regarding 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 about Flynn.
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 any wrongdoing.
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.“
Elijah Cummings, the top-ranking Democrat on the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, is also interested in Kian’s account of the Inovo transaction.
“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.
Flynn Intel Group was allegedly hired by Turkish-backed Inovo group to research Fetullah Gulen’s activities. Gulen is a Turkish cleric living in exile in rural Pennsylvania. He has been blamed by Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for inciting a coup attempt last summer. Sources told Reuters that Kian used a meeting with Congressional staff to lobby for a hearing on Gulen.
“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.”
Flynn did eventually disclose the company’s ties to the Republic of Turkey in a March filing with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agents Registration Act, after the DOJ learned of Flynn’s meetings with Turkish officials and insisted on fuller disclosure. The report comes a day after Bloomberg added Saudi government officials to the list of contacts that Flynn is suspected of improperly disclosing when he applied to renew his security clearance in January 2016. Flynn allegedly traveled to the kingdom in 2015 to pursue a U.S.-Russian business venture to develop nuclear plants in Saudi Arabia.