The Justice Department is dropping its five-year-old criminal case against Bijan Kian, the former lobbying partner of Michael Flynn whom prosecutors had accused of illicit lobbying for Turkey during the 2016 US presidential election.
The move wraps up a long-running tangent of the Mueller-era Russia investigation that originally had been used as leverage to pressure Flynn. Investigators had looked into the Trump ally’s unregistered work for Turkey before becoming the US national security adviser, charged him with false statements and sought his testimony against Kian, then allowed his guilty plea and cooperation to unravel.
Kian’s case has wound through the courts for years. After his indictment in 2018, the Iranian-American businessman went to trial, with prosecutors planning on calling Flynn to testify against him to solidify their evidence of a connection between Flynn’s lobbying group and the government of Turkey.
But Flynn was already working on contesting own case with prosecutors—which he ultimately achieved with the agreement of then-Attorney General Bill Barr – and avoided being called to testify.
A jury in the Eastern District of Virginia voted to convict Kian on charges of conspiring to hide lobbying work for Turkey from the Justice Department and acting as an illegal foreign agent. Yet Judge Anthony Trenga threw out the verdict, citing insufficient evidence and other issues related to Flynn’s role in the lobbying effort. The judge found there wasn’t evidence that Kian agreed to act as a foreign agent for Turkey. The case then went into appeals, hanging in the criminal justice system for years.
In a court filing on Monday, the Justice Department told Trenga it sought to dismiss the charges against Kian, who is also known as Bijan Rafiekian.
“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,” prosecutors wrote.
The judge hasn’t yet formally dismissed the case but is expected to.
“The Justice Department has finally conceded that this case should never have been indicted,” Mark MacDougall, an attorney for Kian, said in a statement provided to CNN on Monday. “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. 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.”