The United States Justice Department on Monday indicted pro-Azerbaijani lobbyist Kemal “Kevin” Oksuz, who has been remanded into custody in Armenia per an arrest warrant issued by the U.S., but is also facing tax evasion charges related to a tourist business he established in Yerevan last year.
Armenia’s Prosecutor General’s office announced on September 19 that it has received an official extradition request from U.S. law enforcement agencies for Oksuz who is a United States citizen born in Turkey.
According to the indictment, Oksuz allegedly lied on disclosure forms filed with the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Ethics prior to, and following, a privately sponsored congressional trip to Azerbaijan. He is accused of using money his non-profit received from the Azerbaijani state oil company SOCAR to fund the congressional trip to Baku.
The Justice Department said that Oksuz submitted falsified Trip Sponsor Forms to the Ethics panel that stated that his nonprofit Turquoise Council of Americans and Eurasians had not accepted any other funding to finance the trip. The indictment says that Oksuz accepted funds from the State Oil Company of Azerbaijan Republic, a consulting firm based in Azerbaijan, and the Assembly of the Friends of Azerbaijan.
Oksuz was indicted on five counts, including “devising a scheme to falsify, conceal, and cover up material facts from the Ethics Committee” and four counts of making false statements to Congress. He is an American citizen and was “recently detained by authorities in Armenia,” according to the Department of Justice.
Members of Congress who participated in the trip included Democratic representatives Yvette D. Clarke of New York, Danny K. Davis of Illinois, Rubén Hinojosa of Texas, Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas, Michelle Lujan Grisham of New Mexico and Gregory W. Meeks of New York, as well as Republican representatives Jim Bridenstine of Oklahoma, Leonard Lance of New Jersey and Ted Poe of Texas. Bridenstine has since left Congress is currently the NASA administrator.
The members and staff were forced to return the gifts they received.
On August 30, the Armenian police arrested Oksuz in Yerevan, where he was later remanded into custody and is also being investigated on tax evasion charges in Armenia. Inquiries in Asbarez to various Armenian government offices have remained unanswered.