Retired FBI counterintelligence agent who led Trump-Russia investigation arrested for own ties to Russian oligarch

Retired FBI counterintelligence agent who led Trump-Russia investigation arrested for own ties to Russian oligarch

A former top FBI counterintelligence official who led the Trump-Russia investigation has been arrested and charged over his own alleged ties to a sanctioned Russian oligarch amid the war in Ukraine.

Charles McGonigal, the former special agent in charge of the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York who retired in 2018, is accused of violating US sanctions by agreeing to provide services to Oleg Deripaska, a sanctioned Russian oligarch. He was charged alongside Sergey Shestakov, a former Soviet and Russian diplomat who later became a US citizen and Russian interpreter for courts and government offices, in a five-count indictment. charge unsealed in Manhattan federal court on Monday.

Both McGonigal and Shestakov were arrested on Saturday. The indictment is a rare move by federal prosecutors to bring charges against a former senior FBI official before a federal grand jury.

Although not referenced or linked to the indictment, McGonigal, while chief of the Cybercrimes Section at FBI Headquarters in Washington, D.C., was one of the bureau’s first officials. to learn of allegations that George Papadopoulos, campaign adviser to former President Donald Trump, bragged that the Russians had dirt on Hillary Clinton, launching the investigation into alleged Russian election interference known as Operation Crossfire Hurricane, Business Insider previously reported.



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Russian billionaire and businessman Oleg Deripaska
(Contributor/Getty Images/File)

McGonigal, 54, of New York, and Shestakov, 69, of Morris, Connecticut, “both have worked with Deripaska in the past to try to get his sanctions lifted, and as officials they should have known better” , the U.S. attorney said. Southern District of New York Damian Williams said in a statement. “This Office will continue to pursue those who violate US sanctions enacted in response to Russian belligerence in Ukraine in order to line their pockets.”

The two men are charged with one count of conspiracy to violate and evade U.S. sanctions in violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (“IEEPA”), one count of violation of the IEEPA, one count of conspiracy to launder money and one count of indictment. money laundering, each punishable by up to 20 years in prison. Shestakov is also charged with one count of misrepresentation, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison, prosecutors said.



“The FBI is committed to applying economic sanctions designed to protect the United States and our allies, particularly from hostile activities by a foreign government and its actors,” said FBI Deputy Director Michael J. Driscoll. “Russian oligarchs like Oleg Deripaska exert global malign influence on behalf of the Kremlin and are associated with acts of corruption, extortion and violence.”

Former President Donald Trump

Former President Donald Trump
(Stringer/AFP via Getty Images/File)

“Once sanctions are imposed, they must be applied equally against all American citizens to be successful,” Driscoll added. “There are no exceptions for anyone, including a former FBI official like Mr. McGonigal. Supporting a designated threat against the United States and our allies is a crime the FBI will continue to aggressively pursue.”

It was then-President Barack Obama who issued Executive Order 13660 in 2014, which declared a national emergency regarding the situation in Ukraine following the annexation of Crimea.

On April 6, 2018, the U.S. Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (“OFAC”) designated Deripaska as a Specially Designated National (“SDN”), sanctioning him for acting on behalf of a senior government official in the Russian Federation. and to operate in the Russian energy sector.

"The FBI is committed to enforcing economic sanctions designed to protect the United States and our allies, particularly from hostile activities by a foreign government and its actors," FBI Deputy Director-in-Charge Michael J. Driscoll said.

“The FBI is committed to applying economic sanctions designed to protect the United States and our allies, particularly from hostile activities by a foreign government and its actors,” said FBI Deputy Director Michael J. Driscoll.
(Mandel Ngan/AFP via Getty Images/File)

In 2021, the two defendants agreed to and investigated a rival Russian oligarch of Deripaska in exchange for concealed payments from Deripaska, in violation of sanctions imposed by the United States in 2018, according to the indictment. McGonigal and Shestakov knew their actions violated U.S. sanctions because, among other reasons, while serving as Special Agent in Charge, McGonigal received then-classified information that Deripaska would be added to a list of oligarchs being considered for penalties.

TOU

As part of their negotiations with Deripaska’s agent, McGonigal, Shestakov, and the agent attempted to conceal Deripaska’s involvement, among other means, by not directly naming Deripaska in electronic communications, using front companies as counterparties in the contract outlining the services to be performed, using a false signature on that contract and using the same front companies to send and receive payments from Deripaska, according to the indictment.

In 2019, McGonigal and Shestakov also reportedly worked on Deripaska’s behalf in an unsuccessful effort to get sanctions against Deripaska lifted. In November 2021, when FBI agents questioned Shestakov about the nature of his and McGonigal’s relationship with Deripaska’s agent, the interpreter made false statements during a taped interview, federal prosecutors said. .

FBI Director Christopher Wray told TOU Digital in a statement, “The way we maintain the trust of the American people is through our work – showing, when all the facts are out, that we stick to the process. and that we treat everyone the same, even when it is one of our own. The FBI will do everything possible to investigate and hold accountable anyone who breaks the law, including where the individual is an FBI employee. We hold ourselves to the highest standards, and our focus will remain on our mission and the fact of doing the right thing, the right way, every time.”