Ex-FBI agent pleads guilty to conspiracy with sanctioned Russian oligarch

August 16, 2023

Former FBI agent Charles McGonigal pleaded guilty Tuesday to one count of conspiracy after admitting he had worked for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.

McGonigal, who led the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York before retiring in 2018, entered his plea in federal court in Manhattan in exchange for having charges against him dropped.

The former FBI agent still faces charges in federal court in Washington DC in connection with accepting $225,000 in cash from a foreign intelligence service. McGonigal was still working for the FBI at the time. 

The incident allegedly occurred in 2018 following a series of sanctions levied against dozens of people connected to Russian President Vladimir Putin for meddling in U.S. elections. Russian billionaire Deripaska was among them.

The Department of Justice says McGonigal, who retired from the FBI in 2018, conspired with another defendant to provide services to Deripaska that same year—Sergey Shestakov, a former Soviet and Russian diplomat who later interpreted Russian for U.S. courts and government offices. The pair were charged with a total of five counts, including conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions, conspiring to commit money laundering and committing money laundering.

The DOJ said both McGonigal and Shestakov were aware they were violating U.S. sanctions because they had previously attempted to have those sanctions against Deripaska lifted.

Shestakov was also charged with making false statements in a recorded interview with FBI agents, which carries a maximum sentence of five years in prison.

Deripaska, an aluminum magnate, is currently worth $1.7 billion, according to Forbes’ Billionaires List, though he was worth nearly $7 billion in 2018 when the U.S. sanctions kicked in.

In court on Tuesday McGonigal admitted he’d worked for Deripaska between spring and autumn of 2021 to dig up dirt on Deripaska rival Vladimir Potanin with the aim of getting Potanin put on the U.S. sanctions list. 

Potanin was eventually placed on the U.S. sanctions list in December 2022 in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Matthew Olsen, who heads the DOJ’s National Security Division, said in a statement that the McGonical case shows the department’s “resolve to pursue and dismantle the illegal networks that Russian oligarchs use to try to escape the reach of our sanctions and evade our laws.

PHOTO: FBI Headquarters, Washington DC

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