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Fmr. top FBI official arrested for Russian oligarch ties

FBI agent. (FBI/Released)
January 23, 2023

A former top FBI official has been arrested and charged with four crimes over his connections to a Russian oligarch sanctioned by the U.S.

Charles McGonigal, a 54-year-old former special agent in charge of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division in New York, was arrested Saturday evening, according to the Justice Department. He’s facing four charges, including money laundering, for covertly providing services to the oligarch Oleg Deripaska, violating U.S. sanctions.

Sergey Shestakov, a Russian interpreter, is facing the same four charges and an additional count of making false statements during an FBI interview.

Each of the four charges shared by the two men carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison, and Shestakov’s additional charge carries a five year maximum sentence, according to the Justice Department.

“Supporting a designated threat to the United States and our allies is a crime the FBI will continue to pursue aggressively,” stated FBI Assistant Director in Charge Michael Driscoll.

Deripaska is the billionaire founder of Basic Element, a Russian industrial group, and was the richest person in Russia around 2008, according to Forbes. The U.S. charged him in September for violating sanctions imposed after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, according to the Justice Department.

In 2021, McGonigal and Shestakov allegedly accepted money from Deripaska to investigate a rival Russian oligarch. Working with one of Deripaska’s agents, they allegedly tried to hide the oligarch’s involvement by not using his name and by channeling money through shell companies. 

On a contract outlining McGonigal and Shestakov’s services, shell companies were named as parties and a forged signature was used, according to the Justice Department.

In 2018, the U.S. had put Deripaska on a list of people banned from doing business with U.S. citizens. Deripaska was sanctioned for “having acted or purported to act on behalf of” a senior Russian official either “directly or indirectly,” as well as for operating in Russia’s energy sector, according to the Justice Department.

The department stated McGonigal was aware of Deripaska’s sanctions because he and Shestakov in 2019 worked unsuccessfully on Deripaska’s behalf to have the sanctions lifted.

McGonigal had supervised and participated in multiple investigations of Russian oligarchs, including Deripaska, during his time at the FBI, according to the Justice Department.

In 2016, McGonigal was a key figure in launching the investigation into then-presidential candidate Donald Trump over allegations he’d colluded with Russian to interfere in the election, Newsweek reported.

This was a breaking news story. The details were periodically updated as more information became available. 

This story was updated to reference McGonigal’s ties to the Trump investigation.