A Turkish businessman who was accused of illegal lobbying has said that he hired the Flynn Intel Group himself after failing to convince the Turkish government to do so.
In an interview with Michael Doran, Ekim Alptekin said that he can understand the confusion on the side of the prosecutor’s office, but that there was nothing illegal or secret about the contract.
“I can understand that there was some confusion about who hired the Flynn Intel Group. The government of Turkey entertained the idea of hiring the Flynn Intel Group, but ended up not hiring them and I did that,” Alptekin said on May 2.
“The government of Turkey has hired lawyers and other people, but I believe it’s not enough. So I made that point, I tried to convince the government and at some point I thought I convinced them, but it was a very busy time for them as well and it didn’t push through soon enough. So that’s when I stepped in and decided to do it myself and it was all very quick,” he also said.
Mastermind of July 2016 coup bid
Alptekin was charged with conspiring with Bijan Rafiekian, a former business partner of General Michael T. Flynn, to extradite U.S.-based Islamic preacher Fethullah Gülen, who is widely believed to have masterminded the July 15, 2016 failed coup attempt that caused the deaths of over 250 people.
Gülen, an ally-turned-foe of the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, has been living in self-imposed exile in the United States since 1999.
His extradition has been the source of one of the ongoing rifts between Ankara and Washington, with the latter rejecting the former’s demand.
Flynn, U.S. President Donald Trump’s former National Security Adviser, admitted in 2017 that his company had received payments from the Turkish government to advance Ankara’s interests during the 2016 U.S. presidential campaign.
‘Independent and objective research’
During the interview, Alptekin said that the botched coup took place when he was discussing with Rafiekian opening an office of the Flynn Intel Group in Turkey.
“I expressed to him that I felt very strong that the Turkish government needed to commission independent and objective research in the U.S. to expose who this Islamist cult [the Gülen movement] was. It’s not very easy to explain to the American audience who they really are. When you start talking about them, it sounds like something out of a Dan Brown novel,” Alptekin said.
“So I believed we needed people with credibility and investigative capabilities to do objective research in the U.S. and then explain it to the U.S. public,” he added.
Saying that the “central nervous system” of the coup, in terms of planning and masterminding it, was the Gülen movement, Alptekin noted “We have not been eloquent in explaining this for several reasons.”
“The fact that the Gülenists used to be aligned with the Turkish government doesn’t help either, but it’s a fact,” he said.
‘Nothing illegal or secret about it’
Alptekin also commented on his efforts to convince the Turkish government and his motivations.
“Of course, Bijan has his heart in the right place, but it was his job to create more business for the Flynn Intel Group, so why not accept a commission like this. There was absolutely nothing illegal or secret about it, other than we obviously didn’t want the Gülenists to know that we were doing this for a lot of reasons,” he said.
“Plus, I felt strongly that the government of Turkey should retain that. For financial reasons, I didn’t want to pay for it. The budget that I could allocate for it, which I ended up paying for myself, is a much smaller budget than I still believe should be spent on this issue,” Alptekin added.
Saying that he stepped in for a more limited budget, Alptekin noted that his intention was not to “curry favor with the Trump administration because there was no way of knowing for me that Trump would be the next president of the U.S.”
“It was August 2016 when I commissioned this contract and chances were very strongly that Hillary Clinton would win. So if my intention had been to curry favor with the U.S. administration and to act as an illegal agent on behalf of my government I probably would have hired Tony Podesta,” he said.
Gülen ‘close to Clinton machine’
According to Alptekin, the Gülen movement is close to the “Clinton machine.”
“They donated to people close to her, to her and to her foundation. They understand the American system and they abuse it,” he said.
Voicing his sadness for the fact that Flynn was accused of treason, Alptekin said, “I’m still shocked that something like this could happen in the U.S.”
“Flynn was accused of being a traitor for something he did in a commercial setting that’s 100 percent legal. It was initiated by me, so I feel bad about that. I’m still shocked that something like this could happen in the U.S. It’s unbecoming of the U.S.,” he said.
“It’s the oldest democracy in the world. The reason that people like me are such a good friend of the U.S. is because we think that in many ways it’s the North Star for many younger democracies like Turkey. And I’m afraid that this Mueller investigation has tremendously damaged the American reputation in Turkey,” Alptekin added.