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Aide cooperating with investigation into New York mayor over dealings with Turkish officials: NYT

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Rana Abbasova, an aide to New York Mayor Eric Adams who served as his longtime liaison to the Turkish community, has turned against him and is cooperating with the corruption investigation into his dealings with some Turkish officials, The New York Times reported, citing three people familiar with the matter.

Last November US prosecutors and the FBI launched a broad public corruption investigation into whether Adams’s 2021 election campaign conspired with the Turkish government to receive illegal foreign donations and whether Adams pressured New York Fire Department officials to sign off on a new high-rise Turkish consulate despite safety concerns.

It was unclear what information Abbasova, the director of protocol for the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs, provided to the federal authorities, The Times reported. But she has been involved in or has had knowledge of some of Adams’s dealings with Turkish government officials and businessmen, according to emails. She also helped coordinate events and meetings with members of the Turkish community in New York and abroad and arranged some of his travel, accompanying him on two official trips to Turkey, records show.

Originally from Azerbaijan, Abbasova, 41, had worked for Adams for about four years in the Brooklyn borough president’s office before he became mayor. She began talking with the team of FBI agents and federal prosecutors conducting the corruption investigation in the weeks after the FBI searched her home on November 2. On the same day, agents also searched the homes of the mayor’s chief fund-raiser, Brianna Suggs, and a former Turkish Airlines (THY) executive Cenk Öcal.

Like the mayor and others under scrutiny in the investigation, Abbasova has not been formally accused of wrongdoing. It is unclear whether she has signed a formal cooperation deal with federal prosecutors in exchange for leniency or whether she will plead guilty to any crimes in connection with the alleged foreign donation scheme. But she has been providing federal authorities with information about the matters they are investigating.

The warrant for the search of Suggs’ Brooklyn home detailed at least some of the possible crimes that FBI agents and prosecutors from the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York were examining as part of the corruption inquiry.

It said they were seeking evidence to support potential charges that included wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy, theft of federal funds and conspiracy to steal federal funds as well as campaign contributions by foreign nationals and conspiracy to make such contributions.

Federal authorities also have been developing evidence to suggest that the Turkish Airlines executive, in coordination with Abbasova, helped arrange upgrades for Adams on THY, a company that Adams has extolled — even telling a pro-government Turkish publication in 2017 that the airline “is my way of flying.”

Adams’s ties to the Turkish government and community stretch back years. As Brooklyn borough president, he actively wooed wealthy members of the Turkish community in south Brooklyn. The mayor states that he has recently visited Turkey at least six times.

One of those trips, taken in 2015, was paid for by the Turkish Consulate, according to financial disclosure forms, which list the purpose as being “to discuss a sister city agreement” with Turkish officials.

Most recently Adams attended an event hosted by first lady Emine Erdoğan at Turkish House on September 19. The “Path to the Global Zero Waste Movement” event was also attended by spouses of heads of state and government participating in the 78th session of the United Nations General Assembly.

Adams’ intervention paved the way for President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, whose fondness for massive building projects was well known in Turkey, to preside over the grand opening of the 35-story “Türkevi” (Turkish House), despite numerous flaws in its fire safety system, according to the people familiar with the matter and city records. The skyscraper in the center of New York City reflected Turkey’s “increased power,” Erdoğan said at its ribbon-cutting last year.

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