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Turkish-American Businessman Admits Lying About 2013 Congress Trip To Azerbaijan

Turkish-American businessman Kemal Oksuz is shown in an Armenian police video released in August.

U.S. officials say a Turkish-American businessman has admitted lying to congressional investigators about a trip taken by U.S. lawmakers to Azerbaijan five years ago.

The Justice Department said Kemal Oksuz pleaded guilty to the charge on December 10.

Oksuz, a Houston-based businessman, was charged by a U.S. grand jury with lying on congressional disclosure forms regarding the 2013 all-expenses-paid visit to Azerbaijan made by 10 members and 32 staffers of Congress.

According to the five-count indictment issued in September, the trip was funded with the help by Azerbaijan's state-run oil company, SOCAR, which provided $750,000 toward the effort.

Oksuz was arrested in Armenia in August, and Armenian authorities later released a video of his police interrogation. In the video, he said that SOCAR covered the travel expenses of the U.S. officials and gave them expensive gifts in 2013.

"That may have been corruption, I don't know," he said.

It was not immediately clear when Oksuz fled to Armenia, or why; Armenia has long had strained relations with both Azerbaijan and Turkey.

After U.S. news reports in 2015 raised questions about the funding of the trip, several of the U.S. lawmakers returned some of the gifts that they had received as part of the trip.

Oksuz will be sentenced in February.

With reporting by RFE/RL’s Armenian Service
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