The Justice Department is dropping its criminal case against Bijan Rafiekian, a former business partner to Michael Flynn who was accused of illegally lobbying in the U.S. on behalf of the Turkish government.
Rafiekian was convicted in July 2019 of conspiring to act as an agent of a foreign government and other serious charges, but months later, a federal judge overturned that conviction and ordered a new trial.
That decision led to more years of litigation including in the 4th Circuit Court of Appeals, where a recent decision called the approval of a new trial in the case "an abuse of discretion."
"After carefully considering the Fourth Circuit’s recent decision in this case and the principles of federal prosecution, the United States believes it is not in the public interest to pursue the case against defendant Bijan Rafiekian further," Justice Department prosecutors wrote in a Monday court filing asking for the charges Rafiekian faced to be dismissed with prejudice.
Rafiekian, who was also an adviser on President Trump‘s transition team, was accused of working with a Turkish national to conspire to influence U.S. politicians and public opinion against Fethullah Gülen, a Turkish cleric living in the U.S. whom Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan has said orchestrated a failed 2016 coup.
Prosecutors argued at the time that Rafiekian and the Turkish national planned to use Flynn Intel Group to ruin Gülen’s public image in the U.S. and increase pressure for his extradition.
Flynn, former President Trump’s onetime national security adviser, wasn’t charged in the plot but admitted to making false statements in Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA) filings as part of a cooperation deal with special counsel Robert Mueller.
He was expected to testify during Rafiekian's trial but pulled out after talks with the government broke down.
Mark MacDougall, Rafiekian’s attorney, said in a statement that the case “should never have been indicted.”
“Mr. Rafiekian has been the target of baseless federal prosecution for the past five years, only because he made the poor decision to be in business with Michael Flynn,” MacDougall said. “Along with his family and his lawyers, Bijan is particularly grateful to the Court for its unwavering commitment to equity and for ensuring that justice would be done.”