In an ironic turn of events, the former top FBI counterintelligence agent, Charles McGonigal, who investigated former President Donald Trump’s campaign for alleged ties with Russia during the 2016 election has now been accused of illegally working for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
The Justice Department announced Monday that McGonigal has been charged with money laundering and violating U.S. sanctions law by working for a Russian oligarch. McGonigal led the FBI’s counterintelligence division for New York City from 2016 until his retirement in 2018
The former FBI agent was arrested at New York’s JFK airport Saturday evening. In Manhattan federal court on Monday, McGonigal pleaded not guilty to four counts and was released on a $500,000 bond.
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In addition to McGonigal, a court interpreter who also worked for Deripaska, Sergey Shestakov, was also arrested at his home in Connecticut on Saturday. Shetakov also pleaded not guilty to 5 counts on Monday and was released on a $200,000 bond.
As part of their respective plea agreements, McGonigal turned over his travel documents and agreed not to leave the continental U.S. while Shestakov agreed to electronic monitoring until he relinquished his passport next week and was also barred from leaving Connecticut or the Eastern and Southern Districts of New York.
In addition to the money laundering and violating U.S. sanctions law charges, McGonigal, 54, was additionally charged in a separate indictment in Washington with concealing payments of $225,000 in cash that he received from a member of Albania’s intelligence service. McGonigal is scheduled to appear remotely on Wednesday in that case.
Despite being required under federal law to report contacts with foreign officials to the FBI, prosecutors allege that McGonigal hid his Russian contacts from the Bureau while he engaged in foreign travel and business dealings that created a serious conflict of interest with his job.
McGonigal was one of the first FBI agents to learn that an official with Trump’s campaign claimed that the Russians had “dirt” on then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton. That allegation led to an investigation of Trump and his campaign that continued into his presidency.
According to the 21-page indictment, while employed by the FBI, McGonigal received then-classified information that included a list of Russian oligarchs with close connections to the Kremlin who were going to be sanctioned by the U.S. in response to Russia’s 2014 annexation of Crimea. Deripaska was included on the list and was noted to have “been investigated for money laundering, and has been accused of threatening the lives of business rivals, illegally wiretapping a government official, and taking part in extortion and racketeering. There are also allegations that Deripaska bribed a government official, ordered the murder of a businessman, and had links to a Russian organized crime ring.”
The indictment went on to state that at about the same time, McGonigal was connected through Shestakov with a former Soviet diplomat who functioned as an agent for Deripaska. While the indictment does not specifically name the diplomat, the DOJ has stated that he was “rumored in public media reports to be a Russian intelligence officer.”
To make the situation worse, McGonigal also helped Shestakov get the daughter of Deripaska’s agent an internship with the New York Police Department telling an NYPD contact that “I have interest in her father for a number of reasons.” The indictment goes on to outline that the agent’s daughter received “VIP treatment from the NYPD” and alleged that an unknown FBI agent had “given her access to confidential FBI files.”
According to the indictment, money that was received after McGonigal left the FBI and became a hired “consultant and investigator” for a law firm that Deripaska’s agent wanted to retain to have sanctions against his patron removed, was wired in the amount of $51,280 on August 13, 2021. Additional monthly payments in the amount of $41,790 were to come between August 18 and November 18, 2021.
For the money, McGonigal arranged a “soup to nuts” investigation into Deripaska’s fellow oligarch, who was not named in the indictment. McGonigal was then informed in late October 2021, by an investigator he had hired that he had located “hidden assets” held by the rival oligarch worth more than $500 million.
Meanwhile, in the Washington case, prosecutors claim that while an FBI supervisor McGonigal took actions that benefited him financially, including proposing that a pharmaceutical company pay an ex-Albanian intelligence company $500,00 in exchange for arranging a business meeting involving a representative from the U.S. delegation to the UN.
McGonigal also met with the prime minister of Albania to caution him against awarding Russian front companies licenses for oil field drilling in the country. McGonigal’s Albanian contacts had a financial interest in that decision.
He is also accused of allegedly getting the FBI’s New York office to open a criminal lobbying investigation in which his former Albanian intelligence official was going to serve as a confidential human source. McGonigal never informed the FBI or DOJ that he had been paid by the Albanian intelligence official turned FBI source.
The 4 counts McGonigal has been charged with are as follows:
- Conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions
- Money laundering
- Conspiring to commit money laundering
- Conspiring to violate federal law against doing business with sanctioned individuals
McGonigal faces a maximum of 80 years behind bars. Shestakov is charged with the same 4 offenses and an additional count of making false statement to investigators. That additional count carries a maximum of another 5 years in jail.