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Abbasova’s job is to set up meetings for City Hall with foreign governments—and when the FBI raided her home, she reportedly asked staffers to delete texts.
- Volunteer, Brooklyn Borough President’s Office
- Community Coordinator and Adviser, Office of the Brooklyn Borough President
- Administrative Assistant, One Brooklyn Fund, Inc.
- Director of Protocol for the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs (On Leave)
In the immediate aftermath of the November 2 FBI raid of the home of Eric Adams’s chief fundraiser Brianna Suggs, Vito Pitta (see entries), lawyer for the Adams campaign, said that the campaign had “started an extensive review of all documents and actions by campaign workers connected to the contributors in question.” Soon after, the campaign did find something, and someone: One staffer had acted “improperly,” and Adams’s lawyers alerted the FBI to let them know about it. According to reporting by the New York Post, that staffer was Rana Abbasova, director of protocol for the Mayor’s Office for International Affairs. And the “improper” behavior? Federal investigators had raided not only Suggs’s apartment on November 2, but Abbasova’s Fort Lee, New Jersey, home as well, and in response, she had told other staffers to delete text messages, the Post reported.
Federal agents soon seized the mayor’s phones and iPad, reportedly to determine whether Adams had received any texts from Abbasova, according to the Post. (One source told the paper that he did not receive any texts.) Abbasova, who has not been accused of any wrongdoing by the feds, has been placed on leave.
So who is Rana Abbasova, and how did she become someone the Adams administration was willing to flag to the FBI? Abbasova, whose family is from Azerbaijan, started volunteering for Adams during his first term as Brooklyn borough president, at a time when he was trying “to make inroads to the Turkish and Azerbaijani communities in Brooklyn.” When she was hired as Adams’s community coordinator at Borough Hall, she was, in the words of her official bio, “responsible for international relations and maintaining relationships between the Borough President and stakeholders, including the Middle East and Central Asian countries, Muslim and Russian-speaking communities, and Non-profit organizations” and “also organized Turkic Heritage events.”
At City Hall, Abbasova continued roughly the same work, like helping facilitate a flag-raising event for Turkey near Wall Street. (Other responsibilities included vetting and setting up meetings with foreign delegations and creating events for their visits.)
During Adams’s time as state senator and Brooklyn borough president, he would not only regularly host foreign dignitaries, but accept offers of free airfare and lodging to visit their countries—trips that are now being scrutinized due to his failure to disclose them as required.
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Adams in particular seems to love traveling to Turkey, on both official and unofficial business. “I‘m probably the only mayor in the history of this city that has not only visited Turkey—Türkiye—once, but I think I’m on my sixth or seventh visit to Türkiye,” Adams said at the flag-raising just weeks before the raids, with Abbasova standing behind him. One of those trips was with his son, Jordan Coleman, which he described as “one of the most joyful times of my life;” another was with Abbasova, before she was a paid member of his staff. Adams has also stated that he once met Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan during a dinner for a Turkish nonprofit while he was borough president.
Federal investigators are digging into Adams’s connections to Turkey, and specifically whether people connected to the autocratic Erdogan administration illegally funneled money to Adams’s campaign in exchange for favors from Adams, including the expedited clearance of Turkey’s consulate by FDNY inspectors.
While that might seem like a convoluted plot—faking small-dollar donations to win influence with a candidate you’ve already treated to lavish all-expenses-paid trips—it appears to be part of a trend with Adams’s mayoral campaign fundraising, with indictments for a straw donor scheme already coming down involving a former cop, Dwayne Montgomery, and the CITY reported on similarly questionable donations. In November, as part of the inquiry involving Abbasova, federal investigators zeroed in on KSK Construction Group, a construction company which had received loans from a Turkish government-owned bank, according to the Daily Beast. According to a warrant viewed by the New York Times, the raid at Brianna Suggs’ house was related to a potential donor scheme where employees of KSK Construction gave donations to the Adams campaign on behalf of foreign nationals. These types of donations are illegal. Perhaps unrelatedly (or not!) an employee in the City Hall press office was briefly registered as a foreign agent for a Turkish trade group as recently as 2021. City Hall did not respond to a request for comment regarding Abbasova.
We should stress that Adams himself has not been directly implicated in any straw donor schemes or favor-trading, but this is where the mayor might find himself in trouble: In late summer 2021, when he was still Brooklyn borough president (but had already won the Democratic mayoral nomination) Adams reached out to then-FDNY commissioner Daniel Nigro to inquire about the FDNY allowing the Turkish government to temporarily occupy the building before having signed off on its occupancy. Requests to expedite inspections, started under the de Blasio administration and continued by Adams, have now fallen under scrutiny by federal investigators.
If all those nice meetings and trips that Abbasova helped plan or money that may have flowed from Turkish nationals swayed Adams to ask the FDNY to speed up safety inspections, this might be the scandal that takes Adams down. What did Abbasova know, if anything, and as prosecutors narrow in, will she start chatting? We’ll see—although at this point, it probably won’t be over text.
Last updated: 12/18/2023
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