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Former aide to NYC mayor cooperating with federal authorities in corruption probe

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A former aide to Eric Adams is assisting federal authorities in an investigation into corruption allegations against the New York City mayor, according to a report.

Rana Abbasova served as Mr Adams’ long-time liaison with the Turkish community, as well as acting as the director of protocol for the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs.

Scrutiny of the mayor began last November when the Brooklyn home of his top fundraiser, Brianna Suggs, was raided by FBI agents. They were reportedly looking for evidence that his 2021 mayoral campaign had conspired with the Turkish government to receive illegal donations.

Ms Abbasova’s cooperation was first reported on Monday by The New York Times, which cited three sources close to the matter, marking the latest development in the investigation.

The outlet noted that it was not clear what information Ms Abbasova had provided to the federal authorities but that she has been involved in or has had knowledge of some of the mayor’s dealings with Turkish government officials and businessmen, per emails.

Investigators are looking for evidence that Eric Adams’ 2021 mayoral campaign conspired with the Turkish government to receive illegal donations (Getty Images for Haute Living)

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 cited by The Times have shown.

Ms Abbasova, who worked for Mr Adams for around four years before he became mayor, has not been accused of wrongdoing.

A spokesperson for Ms Abbasova declined to comment on the matter when contacted by The Independent.

The Independent has also attempted to contact the FBI and US District Attorney’s office by telephone.

Following the raid on Ms Suggs’ residence on November 2 2023, Mr Adams cancelled meetings in Washington DC and returned to New York to deal with “a matter,” according to a spokesperson. The mayor later confirmed that he had hired legal counsel, but has not admitted to any wrongdoing.

The federal investigation has since broadened to look into whether the mayor crossed any lines during his time as Brooklyn borough president when he intervened to help the Turkish consulate secure approval to open a 35-story skyscraper near the United Nations.

One of the lawyers representing Mr Adams, Brendan R McGuire, said in a statement shared with The Times that Ms Abbasova’s cooperation was “not a new or meaningful development.”

“It is our understanding that Ms Abbasova has been talking to investigators since her improper conduct was reported by the administration in November,” the statement said.

In November, the FBI raided the Brooklyn residence of the mayor’s top fundraiser, Brianna Suggs, as part of the investigation into corruption allegations against him (Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.)

The warrant used to raid Ms Suggs’ residence was intended to find evidence that campaign staff allegedly conspired with a Brooklyn-based developer, KSK Construction, the Turkish government or Turkish nationals to violate campaign finance laws.

Foreign nationals are prohibited from making campaign contributions, but investigators are trying to determine if foreign nationals used people in New York’s Turkish-American communities to act as straw contributors.

Straw contributors are those who use someone else’s money to make a political contribution using their own name.

Mr Adams has also been accused of working with FDNY officials to fast-track the building inspection process as favors to powerful real estate developers and political donors.

In February, the FBI also raided two high-ranking New York fire chiefs’ homes as part of the corruption investigation, with questions raised as to whether Brian Cordasco and Anthony Saccavino had been paid $100,000 as part of a scheme to expedite building inspections.

As with Mr Adams and Ms Abbasova, the two men have also not been charged with wrongdoing.

A spokesperson for the Mayor’s Office previously told The Independent that the investigation into Mr Cordasco and Mr Saccavino was unrelated to Mr Adams.

The mayor has longstanding ties with Turkish government officials and institutions as well as the Turkish-American community in New York.

During a flag-raising ceremony just six days before the FBI raids, Mr Adams declared “New York City is the Istanbul of America”. “I’m probably the only mayor in the history of this city that has not only visited Turkey once, but I think I’m on my sixth or seventh visit to Turkey,” he boasted.

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