A former high-ranking FBI official who oversaw investigations into Russian oligarchs has been accused of later trying to get sanctions lifted on a Kremlin-linked billionaire and receiving money from him to investigate a rival.
Charles McGonigal, who headed the bureau’s counterintelligence section in New York City from 2016 to 2018, was arrested at the city’s JFK airport on Saturday after returning from the Middle East.
Most of the charges McGonigal faces relate to alleged activity that took place after he retired from the FBI in 2018.
But he is also accused of taking $225,000 (£182,000) in cash while still working as a special agent from someone who had worked for a foreign intelligence service.
From August 2017 until his retirement in September 2018, McGonigal allegedly concealed from the bureau his relationship with the ex-Albanian intelligence officer.
He allegedly received cash from the person for his own financial benefit – hiding the payment from the FBI – and travelled abroad with them, but the indictment does not characterise the payment to McGonigal as a bribe.
“Mr McGonigal betrayed his solemn oath to the United States in exchange for personal gain and at the expense of our national security,” said FBI assistant director in charge, Donald Alway.
The 54-year-old suspect has also been separately charged with money laundering and violating sanctions on Russia after allegedly receiving concealed payments from oligarch Oleg Deripaska following McGonigal’s retirement.
Deripaska, the founder of Russian aluminium company Rusal, was among those added to the US Treasury Department’s sanctions list in 2018 for purported ties to the Kremlin and its energy sector in reaction to Russia’s alleged meddling in the 2016 US election. Both Deripaska and the Kremlin deny any such interference.
McGonigal stands accused of working on a failed attempt to get sanctions against Deripaska lifted a year later and investigating a rival oligarch in 2021 on behalf of him in return for money.
On Monday, he pleaded not guilty in federal court to violating US sanctions on Russia.
Prosecutors claim McGonigal, and an interpreter and Deripaska associate called Sergei Shestakov, 69, tried to conceal Deripaska’s involvement through various ways including shell companies and forged signatures.
McGonigal and Shestakov are charged with violating and conspiring to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act, conspiring to commit money laundering and money laundering.
Shestakov is also charged with making material misstatements to the FBI.
McGonigal and Shestakov are both being held in a Brooklyn jail.
McGonigal joined the FBI in 1996 and began working on Russian foreign counterintelligence and organised crime.
During his time working in New York, he investigated the 1998 bombings of the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and the September 11 terror attacks in 2001.
Last September, federal prosecutors in Manhattan charged Deripaska and three associates with conspiring to violate US sanctions by plotting to ensure his child was born in the US.