A former FBI official has been arrested over his ties to a Russian oligarch charged with violating US sanctions.
Charles McGonigal, 54, was previously the special agent in charge of counterintelligence in the New York Field office.
He was arrested on Saturday afternoon after arriving at JFK following a trip to Sri Lanka and retired from the FBI in 2018.
Law enforcement says he has links to metal mogul Oleg Deripaska, a Russian billionaire sanctioned by the US – from the 2014 Crimea invasion rather than the Ukraine war – and then charged with violating them last year.
Charles McGonigal, 54, was previously the special agent in charge of counterintelligence in the New York Field office
Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska was sanctioned by the US and then charged with violating them last year. Pictured: With Vladimir Putin in 2017
Court interpreter, Sergey Shestakov, 69, was also charged in connection with case. He also worked with Deripaska.
McGonigal is charged with violating US sanctions by trying to get Deripaska – who is worth $1.7billion – off the sanctions list.
He is one of the highest-ranking former FBI officials ever charged with a crime.
Both McGonigal and Shestakov are accused of receiving payments through shell companies and forging signatures to keep it secret that Deripaska was paying them.
According to the Justice Department, the pair, who both worked for the FBI and investigated oligarchs, agreed to investigate a rival oligarch in return for payments from Deripaska.
Both men are facing money laundering charges as well as violating sanctions – with each of the four counts carrying a maximum of 20 years in prison.
Deripaska, 55, is one of the small number of oligarchs who criticized Putin for launching war in Ukraine – calling it madness
The FBI searched Deripaska’s $15million home in Washington DC, his $42.5million property in the Upper East Side and $4.5million townhouse in West Village in 2021.
FBI Assistant Director in Charge Michael Driscoll said in a statement: ‘The FBI is committed to the enforcement of economic sanctions designed to protect the United States and our allies, especially against hostile activities of a foreign government and its actors.
‘Russian oligarchs like Oleg Deripaska perform global malign influence on behalf of the Kremlin and are associated with acts of bribery, extortion, and violence.
‘As alleged, Mr. McGonigal and Mr. Shestakov, both U.S. citizens, acted on behalf of Deripaska and fraudulently used a U.S. entity to obscure their activity in violation of U.S. sanctions.
‘After sanctions are imposed, they must be enforced equally against all U.S. citizens in order to be successful. There are no exceptions for anyone, including a former FBI official like Mr. McGonigal.’
Shestakov has also been charged with lying to FBI investigators about his relationship with the oligarch.
Deripaska and his aluminum giant Rusal have been under U.S. sanctions since 2018 for malign activity in both Russian-annexed Crimea and Ukraine
After leaving the FBI McGonigal worked for Deripaska through a law firm, and made at least $25,000 working as an ‘investigator. ‘
He was then paid $51,000 and $41,790 for across several months working for the Russian directly.
McGonigal told pals that he was working for a ‘rich Russian guy’ and stressed that his work was legal.
The US Attorney’s Office has unsealed a separate case against McGonigal, claiming that he accepted $225k from an individual who was an employee of a foreign intelligence service.
Documents claim that between August 2017 and September 2018 – just before his retirement – he hid the relationship from the FBI.
He is accused of travelling abroad with the ‘individual with business interests in Europe’, and met foreign nationals.
The person is described in the court documents as an Albanian national who was employed by a Chinese energy conglomerate.
In December 2022 he had his $1billion hotel complex and marina in Sochi seized after the Kremlin reportedly asked him to ‘calm down’
A Russian court ordered his $1billion Imeretinskiy hotel complex and marina in Sochi to be seized after the Kremlin asked him not to criticise Russia’s war in Ukraine
The person later ‘served as an FBI source in a criminal investigation involving foreign political lobbying’ over which McGonigal had a supervisory role.
Deripaska, 55, is one of the small number of oligarchs who criticized Putin for launching war in Ukraine – calling it madness.
In December 2022 he had his $1billion hotel complex and marina in Sochi seized after the Kremlin reportedly asked him to ‘calm down’.
The metals tycoon, who made his fortune as the founder of aluminum giant Rusal, initially spoke out after Russian forces swept into neighboring Ukraine in February.
Deripaska and his aluminum giant Rusal have been under U.S. sanctions since 2018 for malign activity in both Russian-annexed Crimea and Ukraine.
He was reportedly worth $7billion in 2018, when he was sanctioned by the US government.
The science hub and the hotel complex, which stretches 1.5 kilometres along the Black Sea coast and comprises hotels, apartments and swimming pools, are next to each other.
Deripaska is one of a group of businessmen known as oligarchs who control large parts of the economy, especially in energy and commodities, and have been able to preserve their fortunes on condition that they stay out of politics.