Sun. Feb 5th, 2023

Federal prosecutors said Monday that the former top FBI agent in New York for counterintelligence was detained together with an ex-Russian diplomat and charged with breaking American sanctions against Russia by attempting to assist the tycoon Oleg Deripaska in getting off the sanctions list.

Separate charges were brought against the former agent, Charles McGonigal, on Monday in federal court in Washington, D.C., for collecting $225,000 in cash from a person with business interests in Europe who had previously worked for Albania’s foreign intelligence agency while employed by the FBI.

According to officials, the other individual eventually turned into an FBI source in a criminal investigation into foreign political lobbying that McGonigal was overseeing.

McGonigal, who is accused of providing false statements and other offenses in that case, is also accused of failing to declare as required that he had met with the Albanian prime minister and a Kosovar politician during a trip to Albania and Kosovo in October 2017.

According to FBI Assistant Director in Charge Donald Alway, “Mr. McGonigal breached his sacred commitment to the United States in return for personal benefit and at the detriment of our national security.”

In the Deripaska case, a five-count indictment filed in U.S. District Court in Manhattan accuses McGonigal, 54, and Sergey Shestakov, 69, of money laundering as well as violating the Russia sanctions.

In Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, on April 16, 2019, businessman Oleg Deripaska retorts in front of the Gorkovsky Automobile Plant (GAZ) headquarters.
Reuters | Maxim Shemetov
Shestakov, a former diplomat from the Soviet Union and Russia, most recently served as an interpreter for the federal court in Brooklyn and its prosecutors. He is an American citizen.

The Morris, Connecticut resident is also accused of lying to the FBI while being questioned about his and McGonigal’s interactions with a Deripaska employee who was also suspected of being a Russian spy.

The alleged illegal activity on Deripaska’s behalf allegedly started in the year following McGonigal’s retirement from the FBI in 2018 after 22 years of service. McGonigal is a New York City resident.
However, the indictment claims that prior to his retirement, he also exploited his ties in law enforcement to get an internship for the college-aged daughter of Deripaska’s employee with the New York Police Department.

While working for the FBI, McGonigal had looked into Deripaska, who built his wealth in the Russian aluminum business.

After arriving from the Middle East on Saturday evening, he was detained at JFK International Airport in Queens, New York.

Later on Monday, McGonigal and Shestakov, who was also detained on Saturday evening, are scheduled to appear in court in Manhattan.

If found guilty of the allegations brought against them, they might get a maximum term of 20 years in jail. In the criminal case in Washington, McGonigal is subject to a similar maximum penalty.

According to McGonigal’s LinkedIn page, his most recent position was senior vice president at the industry titan Brookfield Properties. He departed Brookfield, according to a company representative, in January 2022.

Lawyers for McGonigal and Shestakov have been contacted by CNBC for comment.

According to the 21-year charge against McGonigal, he and Shestakov promised to investigate a rival Russian magnate of Deripaska in 2021 and actually did so in exchange for covert payments from Deripaska. According to the indictment, such purported payments violated the restrictions that the United States placed on Deripaska in 2018.

The indictment claims that McGonigal, who oversaw the FBI’s counterintelligence operations in New York from 2016 to 2018, was aware that his alleged actions violated the sanctions because he had access to what was at the time classified information about Deripaska’s inclusion on the list of sanctioned oligarchs. The invasion of Ukraine by Russia led to the imposition of such sanctions.

“Russian oligarchs like Oleg Deripaska exercise worldwide negative influence on behalf of the Kremlin and are involved with crimes of bribery, extortion, and violence,” according to a statement by FBI Assistant Director in Charge Michael Driscoll.

According to the indictment, McGonigal was introduced by Shestakov through email to a Deripaska employee who was thought to be a Russian intelligence operative in 2018 while McGonigal was still employed by the FBI. This Deripaska employee, known as “Agent-1” in the indictment, was once a Soviet and Russian diplomat.

According to the indictment, Shestakov requested that McGonigal assist the employee’s daughter in obtaining an internship with the New York Police Department in the areas of “counterterrorism, intelligence collecting, and “international liaisoning.”

According to the indictment, McGonigal agreed to assist and disclosed to a subordinate FBI agent that he intended to hire the Deripaska employee.

The indictment claims that Agent-1’s daughter received special treatment from the NYPD thanks to McGonigal’s efforts.
Agent-1’s daughter claimed to have an unusually close relationship with “an FBI agent,” who had given her access to secret FBI files, and it was unusual for a college student to receive such special treatment from the NYPD and FBI. As a result, an NYPD Sergeant assigned to brief Agent-1’s daughter later reported the incident to the NYPD and FBI.

The indictment claims that Shestakov and McGonigal connected the woman’s father to an international legal firm in Manhattan in 2019 after McGonigal retired in an effort to get the oligarch’s sanctions removed.

The indictment claims that during those talks, McGonigal flew to Vienna and London to see Deripaska and others at the oligarchs’ homes.

The indictment claims that McGonigal, Shestakov, and the Deripaska employee used words like “the individual,” “our buddy in Vienna,” and “the Vienna customer” in electronic conversations rather than the oligarch’s last name.

According to the indictment, Deripaska ultimately hired the legal firm for work to try to lift the penalties at a cost of $175,000 per month, with $25,000 designated for “some additional professionals.”

According to the charge complaint, the legal firm employed McGonigal as a consultant and investigator in its work for Deripaska. According to the indictment, McGonigal requested that the business provide $25,000 to a company owned by Shestakov as compensation.

The Covid-19 outbreak caused a halt to the firm’s work for Deripaska, and the tycoon stopped paying the attorneys somewhere around March 2020, according to the indictment.

Agent-1, however, started talking with McGonigal and Shestakov in the spring of 2021 in order to work for Deripaska directly without the assistance of the law firm “on a non-legal topic not permissible” as per U.S. sanctions.

According to the indictment, this effort entailed looking into the activities of another billionaire who had stakes in a significant Russian firm that Deripaska and the other oligarch were vying to control.

The three allegedly created and signed a contract in August 2021 requiring a Cyprus-based company to pay a New Jersey-based company more than $51,000 upon execution of the control and an additional $41,790 each month for “business intelligence services, analysis, and research.”

The funds would really go to McGonigal and Shestakov, neither of whom were mentioned in or signed the contract, according to the indictment.

According to the indictment, McGonigal’s acquaintance, who controlled the New Jersey corporation, set up for him to take part in its operations while he was still a special agent in charge of counterintelligence at the New York FBI bureau. According to the indictment, McGonigal used a business email address and a phone with a phony name to hide his employment.

According to the indictment, McGonigal hired subcontractors to help with the investigation while looking into the second oligarch without disclosing to them who the client was: Deripaska. The indictment claims that one of these subcontractors later alerted McGonigal that a third party had discovered so-called dark web data that would indicate concealed U.S. assets possessed by the second oligarch.

The indictment claims that in late November 2021, McGonigal and Shestakov convinced an employee of Deripaska to obtain money from the oligarch in order to pay for the dark web files.

The indictment states that “this conduct substantially or entirely halted on or about November 21, 2021, when special FBI officers working in accordance with court-issued search warrants confiscated the defendant’s personal electronic devices.”

The indictment claims that Shestakov attempted to “conceal the extent and intensity of the connection between himself, McGonigal, and Agent-1” when he met with FBI agents at a Manhattan restaurant earlier that same day.

By Antor

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