HomeTop StoriesCharles McGonigal, ex-FBI official who worked for sanctioned Russian oligarch, pleads guilty

Charles McGonigal, ex-FBI official who worked for sanctioned Russian oligarch, pleads guilty

WashingtonCharles McGonigalthe former top FBI counterintelligence official in New York pleaded guilty Tuesday to a federal charge stemming from his work for a sanctioned Russian oligarch and close ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

In January, federal prosecutors in New York indicted McGonigal on five counts of violating U.S. sanctions, money laundering, conspiracy and making false statements. Prosecutors alleged that he was on the payroll of Oleg Deripaska, which he investigated in his role as a special agent in charge of the Counterintelligence Division of the FBI’s New York Field Office. Deripaska has been sanctioned by the US since 2018, making it illegal to do business with him.

McGonigal initially disputed the charges, but changed his stance on Tuesday and pleaded guilty to one charge of conspiracy to violate a law known as the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and to launder money. The charge carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison. McGonigal must also forfeit $17,500 under the terms of the plea deal.

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“Following his tenure as a senior FBI official who oversaw and participated in investigations of Russian oligarchs, Charles McGonigal has now admitted that he agreed to circumvent US sanctions by providing services to one of those oligarchs, Oleg Deripaska,” said American attorney Damian. Williams, the top federal prosecutor in Manhattan. “This agency will continue to hold accountable those who violate US sanctions for their own financial gain.”

Former FBI official Charles McGonigal arrives at Manhattan Federal Court in New York on February 9, 2023.
Former FBI official Charles McGonigal arrives at Manhattan Federal Court in New York on February 9, 2023.

YUKI IWAMURA/AFP via Getty Images

In exchange for his plea of ​​guilty, the New York U.S. Attorney’s Office will try to dismiss the other charges in the original indictment and could recommend a slightly lenient sentence if McGonigal “shows clear acceptance of responsibility” before sentencing.

After McGonigal retired from the FBI in 2018, prosecutors alleged that he and a former Russian diplomat turned interpreter for US courts had been unsuccessfully working on behalf of Deripaska to have sanctions against him lifted. The pair also investigated a rival Russian oligarch for Deripaska and hid the source of Deripaska’s payments.

They “attempted to hide Deripaska’s involvement by, among other things, not directly naming Deripaska in electronic communications, using shell companies as counterparties to the contract that outlined the services to be performed, using a forged signature on that contract, and using the same shell to use.” companies to send and receive payments from Deripaska,” the Justice Department said on Tuesday.

McGonigal admitted to investigating the rival and trying to hide the payments in a criminal information file filed with his IOU on Tuesday.

Federal prosecutors also said in the original indictment that while McGonigal was still with the FBI, he helped arrange an internship for the daughter of an alleged Russian intelligence officer, who worked for Deripaska, with the New York City Police Department.

After McGonigal was indicted, FBI Director Christopher Wray defended the agency against criticism of its credibility. During his 22-year career with the FBI, McGonigal investigated Russian counterintelligence and espionage operations, and the allegations raised questions about whether any FBI investigations had been compromised.

“The way we maintain the trust of the American people is through our work – by showing, when all the facts come out, that we have adhered to the process and treated everyone equally, even if it is one of us. it,” he said. said in a Jan. 23 statement. “The FBI will make every effort to investigate and hold accountable anyone who violates the law, including if the individual is an FBI employee.”

Seth DuCharme, a lawyer for McGonigal and a former Justice Department official, said after the indictment that McGonigal had a “long, distinguished career with the FBI.”

He has also been charged in a separate Washington, D.C. case with concealing $225,000 he allegedly received from a former Albanian intelligence operative and misleading the FBI about his dealings with foreigners and travel while still employed by the FBI. desk.

McGonigal still maintains his not guilty plea in that case.

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