Charles McGonigal, a former counterintelligence agent responsible for investigating Russian oligarchs, has been arrested over the weekend over his ties to a Russian oligarch.
Russian billionaire and founder of aluminum giant Rusal, Oleg Deripaska, was sanctioned under the IEEPA in 2018 and was indicted in the US in September on sanctions violations although no attempt has been made yet to extradite him.
Barack Obama invoked this Cold War-era legislation in 2014 to block the property of anyone deemed responsible/complicit in actions or policies that threatened Ukraine’s security, sovereignty, or territorial integrity, hence giving Washington a wide net to cast in sanctioning Russian targets.
McGonigal was arrested in New York on Saturday along with the former Soviet and Russian diplomat and court interpreter Sergey Shestakov.
Court documents show that working for Deripaska in 2021, McGonigal earned an initial payment of $51,000 and three other monthly payments of $41,000. On top of providing services to Deripaska in 2021, McGonigal and Shestakov also lobbied unsuccessfully to have sanctions against him lifted in 2019.
A former senior special agent in charge of counterintelligence in the FBI’s New York Field Office- who oversaw some of the agency’s most secret and sensitive counterintelligence investigations – McGonigal is charged with helping Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska evade US sanctions, money laundering, conspiracy to commit money laundering and violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
Shestakov, on the other hand, faces an additional charge of making false statements to FBI agents when questioned on their relationship with the tycoon.
According to a separate indictment unsealed by the US Attorney’s Office in Washington on Monday, McGonigal and Shestakov also allegedly agreed to investigate a rival Russian businessman in exchange for payments – which Deripaska delivered through shell corporations.
McGonigal is also accused of taking money from a former Albanian intelligence employee working for a Chinese energy conglomerate, who reportedly paid him $225,000 in cash between 2017 and 2018.
At the arraignment Monday afternoon in New York, McGonigal – who has surrendered his passport following the arrest and is currently prohibited from any international travel- entered a plea of not guilty via his attorney on charges in connection with violating US sanctions, conspiracy, and money laundering.
In Washington, federal prosecutors set a remote initial appearance for Wednesday on the charges of concealing connections McGonigal had with the Albanian spy.