FBI investigates links between New York mayor’s campaign and Turkey

Mayor of New York City Eric Adams seems to have a special affinity for Azerbaijan and Turkey. We will soon find out if that special relationship has overstepped the bounds of legality.

A year ago, I wrote an article about Mayor Adams, who notoriously had declared: “After I retire from government, I’m going to live in Baku.”

The New York Daily News published an article in 2021 under the title: “NYC mayoral candidate Eric Adams accepted foreign travel to countries with a history of corruption.” The article disclosed, “Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams has accepted thousands of dollars in travel and other perks from China, Turkey and Azerbaijan, three countries with a well-documented history of suppressing their citizens.”

Adams recently acknowledged that he has traveled to Turkey eight times. In August 2023, he boasted during a Turkish flag-raising ceremony in Manhattan that there were probably no other mayors in New York City history who had visited Turkey as frequently as him. In August 2015, the Turkish government paid thousands of dollars for then-Brooklyn Borough president Adams to visit Turkey for six days, when he signed a sister city agreement with Istanbul’s Uskudar district. The Turkish consulate paid up to $4,999 for his airfare, hotel stay and ground transportation, according to Adams’ disclosure with the city’s Conflicts of Interest Board (COIB). The New York Daily News reported that in 2016, “Azerbaijan’s tourism ministry paid up to $4,999 for Adams to visit its capital Baku for four days, according to the borough president’s COIB disclosure.” Adams has held fundraising events for his campaign in the Azeri and Turkish restaurants Baku Palace and Ali Baba in New York City. On Sept. 19, 2023, Mayor Adams attended an event hosted by President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s wife Emine at the Turkish House in New York City.

NYC Mayor Eric Adams presents a citation to the Brooklyn Baku Friendship Association on the occasion of Azerbaijan Republic day (Photo: Facebook/Brooklyn Baku Friendship Association, May 15, 2019)

Last Thursday, November 2, 10 FBI agents raided the home of the mayor’s chief fundraiser, Brianna Suggs, to investigate “whether Mayor Eric Adams’s 2021 election campaign conspired with the Turkish government to receive illegal foreign donations, according to a search warrant obtained by The New York Times.” Adams’ 2025 reelection campaign paid Suggs’ company nearly $100,000 for fundraising and campaign consulting services.

“Investigators sought to learn more about the potential involvement of a Brooklyn construction company with ties to Turkey, as well as a small university in Washington, D.C., that also has ties to the country and to Mr. Adams,” the New York Times reported. “According to the search warrant, investigators were also focused on whether the mayor’s campaign kicked back benefits to the [KSK] construction company’s officials and employees, and to Turkish officials.” The City news website reported that 84 donors, most of them employees of KSK Construction Group, whose founders are from Turkey, had contributed over $69,000 to the mayor’s campaign. However, “multiple people listed in Adams 2021 campaign donation records as KSK employees either said they did not donate to Eric Adams or refused to state whether they had ever donated,” The City reported.

During last Thursday’s raid, the FBI searched for records of travel to Turkey and documents linking the Turkish government and its intermediaries to the Adams campaign, seizing three iPhones, two computers and various files from Suggs’ home. Investigators also sought documents regarding Bay Atlantic University, a Turkish-owned university in Washington, D.C. that opened in 2014. In 2015, Adams “visited one of the school’s sister universities in Istanbul, where he was given various certificates and was told that a scholarship would be created in his name,” according to the New York Times.

Last Thursday, the day of the FBI raid, the New York City mayor, who had traveled to Washington, D.C. for meetings with the senior White House, members of Congress and other mayors, abruptly canceled his meetings and returned to New York City.

The New York Times reported: “The [search] warrant suggested that some of the foreign campaign contributions were made as part of a straw donor scheme, where donations are made in the names of people who did not actually give money. Investigators sought evidence to support potential charges that included the theft of federal funds and conspiracy to steal federal funds, wire fraud and wire fraud conspiracy, as well as campaign contributions by foreign nationals and conspiracy to make such contributions.”

In July, Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg indicted seven individuals who fundraised for the mayor’s 2021 campaign on multiple counts, including conspiracy, bribe-taking and conspiracy to funnel illegal donations, according to the New York Times.

The FBI investigation has not targeted Adams personally. He said that he “had no clear knowledge, direct or indirect, of any improper fundraising activity – and certainly not of any foreign money.”

But if it is proven that he had conspired with the Turkish government to receive illegal campaign funds, the mayor may have to retire in Baku or Istanbul much earlier than he expected.

Harut Sassounian

Harut Sassounian

California Courier Editor
Harut Sassounian is the publisher of The California Courier, a weekly newspaper based in Glendale, Calif. He is the president of the Armenia Artsakh Fund, a non-profit organization that has donated to Armenia and Artsakh one billion dollars of humanitarian aid, mostly medicines, since 1989 (including its predecessor, the United Armenian Fund). He has been decorated by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh and the heads of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic churches. He is also the recipient of the Ellis Island Medal of Honor.

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