Mike Flynn’s paid lobbying work on behalf of Turkish interests was arranged by a man with business ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Flynn was paid $600,000 last year by Ekim Alptekin, who has coordinated Turkish lobbying in the U.S. with Dmitri “David” Zaikin, a former executive in Russian energy and mining companies, reported Politico.
Alptekin told the website that he hired Flynn, who was working for the Trump campaign at the time, with his own money and did not coordinate any lobbying for the Turkish government.
The Ukraine-born Zaikin told Politico that he wasn’t involved in Flynn’s lobbying, and both Alptekin and Zaikin denied knowing one another.
But three sources told Politico that Alptekin and Zaikin had worked together to coordinate lobbying efforts on behalf of Turkish interests.
Flynn said in a previous filing with the Justice Department that Alptekin had assured him he was not directly or indirectly funded by a foreign government, but the disgraced national security adviser has offered shifting accounts of his work on behalf of Turkish interests.
Although Alptekin denies knowing Zaikin, he admits that he has attended events and met with leaders of the Turkish Heritage Organization, a Washington-based group of loyalists to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
Turkey is a NATO ally, but Erdogan has grown increasingly authoritarian and developed closer ties to Putin.
The heritage organization was started when Zaikin, who is not Turkish and has no apparent ties to Turkey, asked international political consultant John Moreira to set up the group.
Moreira said he doesn’t know who Zaikin was working for, and he declined to say who had paid him to manage the heritage organization.
Both Alptekin and Zaikin have a long history of business dealings with Russia and Putin-allied oligarchs.
Zaikin was an executive in Russia’s oil industry during the 2000s, when Putin was gaining control over the country’s mineral wealth to benefit himself and his inner circle.
Alptekin was a partner in the investment group ETIRC a decade ago that bought a stake in New Mexico jet manufacturer called Eclipse Aviation, which filed for bankruptcy after announcing plans to build a factory in Russia financed by the Putin-chaired Vnesheconombank.
Flynn said in his Justice Department filings that his lobbying work focused on pressuring the U.S. to turn over Fethullah Gulen, a Turkish cleric who lives in Pennsylvania but has been accused by Erdogan of plotting a coup.
Former CIA director James Woolsey revealed last month that Flynn hosted a meeting in September to covertly snatch up Gulen in “the dead of night” and send him back to Turkey in apparent circumvention of U.S. extradition laws.
Flynn was picked by President Donald Trump to serve as national security adviser but was fired in February for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with the Russian ambassador to the U.S.
He told the FBI and congressional investigators that he was willing to testify in the ongoing probe of Trump campaign ties to Russia in exchange for immunity from prosecution, but Flynn’s offer was declined.