Ex-FBI official busted by feds for helping Russian oligarch evade sanctions

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Ex-FBI official busted by feds for helping Russian oligarch evade sanctions

A former top FBI agent in New York who investigated the Trump campaign’s alleged ties to Russia in 2016 has been charged with money laundering and violating US sanctions for trying to help Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska evade the penalties, the Justice Department said on Monday. 

Charles McGonigal, the former FBI special agent in charge of counterintelligence in the New York Field Office, was arrested on Saturday along with Sergey Shestakov, a court interpreter who also worked for Deripaska.

“They both previously worked with Deripaska to attempt to have his sanctions removed, and, as public servants, they should have known better,” US Attorney Damian Williams said in a statement. 

The 21-page indictment against the 54-year-old McGonigal, who retired from the FBI in 2018, said as the FBI special agent in charge, he received then-classified information that Deripaska would be included on the list of Russian oligarchs with close ties to the Kremlin sanctioned by the US after Russia invaded and annexed Crimea in 2014. 

Charles McGonigal, the former FBI special agent in charge of counterintelligence in the New York Field Office, was indicted on charges of money laundering and violating sanctions by aiding Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Charles McGonigal, the former FBI special agent in charge of counterintelligence in the New York Field Office, was indicted on charges of money laundering and violating sanctions by aiding Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
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“After McGonigal left the FBI, he and Shestakov worked on behalf of Deripaska in an unsuccessful effort to have those sanctions lifted,” the court document says. 

McGonigal, who also served as the cyber-counterintelligence section chief in Washington, was one of the first FBI agents to learn that a Trump campaign official claimed that the Russians had “dirt” on ​then-Democratic presidential candidate ​Hillary Clinton​, which triggered the investigation that continued into Donald Trump’s presidency.​

Deripaska, who has close ties to Russia President Vladimir Putin, played a crucial role in the probe and was hit with more sanctions for meddling in the 2016 election.

Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
AFP via Getty Images

Around 2019, McGonigal and ​Shestakov, who had connections to Russia’s ministry of foreign affairs, ​introduced ​a Deripaska associate — who was believed to have worked in Russian intelligence — to an international law firm that had offices in Manhattan.  

The Deripaska employee, according to the indictment, wanted the law firm to work to remove the sanctions against the oligarch. 

During the negotiations, McGonigal met with Deripaska and other cronies at Deripaska’s homes in London and Vienna. 

McGonigal and Shestakov didn’t refer to Deripaska by name but as “the individual,” “our friend from Vienna,” and “the Vienna client,” court documents say. 

According to the terms of the agreement, Deripaska would pay the law firm $175,000 a month, with $25,000 “earmarked” for “certain other professionals.”

The law firm, not named in the indictment, hired McGonigal as a consultant and investigator.

The former G-man asked the firm to pay him by sending $25,000 to a corporation owned by Shestakov, which it did.  

In the spring of 2021, McGonigal and Shestakov began working for Deripaska without the involvement of the law firm. 

The two men and Deripaska’s ally entered into a contract in August 2021 to pay them via Cyprus through a company in New Jersey that was owned by a friend of McGonigal’s. 

​According to the indictment, $51,280 was wired on Aug. 13. 2021, to the New Jersey corporation from a Russian bank, an amount that was to be followed by monthly payments of $41,790 between that month and Nov. 18, 2021.

McGonigal is charged with four counts and faces a maximum of 80 years in prison.

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