Mark Wilson/Getty Images(NEW YORK) — The Turkish businessman who hired Gen. Michael Flynn during the closing months of the 2016 presidential election refused to say whether he had been questioned or received a subpoena in connection with the ongoing investigation into the dealings of Trump associates during the campaign.
“I cannot comment on that,” Ekim Alptekin told ABC News in an interview on Monday.
Alptekin, who was in Washington, D.C. attending a Turkish-American business conference at the Trump International Hotel, founded a Dutch-based company called Inovo that paid the Flynn Intel Group more than $500,000 during the presidential campaign, according to papers Flynn filed with the Department of Justice.
Flynn had previously registered as a lobbyist for the firm, but Flynn’s attorneys advised that he file additional documents with the Justice Department identifying himself as an agent for a foreign government. The attorneys believed the work could be construed as principally benefitting the Turkish government, a finding that would trigger the need for registration.
“Because of the subject matter of Flynn Intel Group’s work for Inovo BV, which focused on Mr. Fethullah Gulen, whose extradition is sought by the Government of Turkey, the engagement could be construed to have principally benefitted the Republic of Turkey,” wrote a lawyer for the Flynn Intel Group in a letter to the Department of Justice. “To eliminate any potential doubt, the Flynn Intel Group therefore is electing to file a registration under FARA, in lieu of its prior LDA registration.”
Alptekin disputed that assessment.
“I’ve never represented the government of Turkey,” he said. “All of the reports that implicated or imply that I was in any way representing the government are simply not true.”
Gulen is a Turkish cleric who lives in Pennsylvania who has been blamed by the Turkish government for orchestrating a failed military coup in July. In November, The Hill published an op-ed written by Flynn comparing Gulen to Osama bin Laden and urging the U.S. to “adjust our foreign policy to recognize Turkey as a priority.”
“The forces of radical Islam derive their ideology from radical clerics like Gülen, who is running a scam,” Flynn wrote. “We should not provide him safe haven. In this crisis, it is imperative that we remember who our real friends are.”
Flynn has long been a controversial figure. He served in the Obama administration but left government service in 2014 after being reportedly forced out of his position as head of the Defense Intelligence Agency. Flynn later took a prominent role in the Trump campaign, paving the way to his appointment as Donald Trump’s National Security Adviser.
He was forced to resign, however, shortly after the inauguration, after the administration learned he misled Vice President Mike Pence about private discussions he had with the Russian ambassador. At the same time, Flynn’s private work for and speech fees from foreign sources also began attracting scrutiny.
Alptekin said in an interview that it was unnerving to see his name and that of his company surface in connection with the unfolding scandal.
“I think unfortunately there’s a highly politicized situation in the United States in which a lot of facts are being distorted — there’s a lot of misunderstanding and misperceptions,” Alptekin said. “I don’t think this is a very healthy environment unfortunately. I hope the United States will overcome this period as soon as possible so we can all move forward.”
Earlier this month, sources told ABC News that associates of Flynn Intel Group received grand jury subpoenas in recent weeks, stemming from the FBI investigation being led out of the U.S. Attorney’s Office at the Eastern District of Virginia. Those associates have not been identified publicly.
Flynn, meanwhile, has refused to honor a Senate committee’s subpoena request for documents relating to Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.
“He will not be producing the documents they sought,” a source close to Flynn told ABC News. “He is entitled to decline, pursuant to the Fifth Amendment.”
Copyright © 2017, ABC Radio. All rights reserved.