By Kaden Scharnow
Former FBI Official Charles McGonigal, was arrested last Saturday after being accused of money laundering, taking money from a foreign official, and violating sanctions against Russia. The charges came in separate unsealed indictments, one from New York where he was taken into custody, and one from Washington D.C. The New York case included charges of violation of sanctions the US made against Russia for its aggression in Ukraine. The Washington D.C. case focused on the $225,000 in cash he took from a former Albanian intelligence employee, who he concealed his relationship with from the FBI.
Before his retirement in 2018, McGonigal oversaw some of the FBI’s most secret counterintelligence investigations along with the investigations of Russia’s top oligarchs, specifically Oleg V. Deripaska. McGonigal was charged by the New York case for aiding Deripaska in gathering intelligence for a rival oligarch last year. It was known that Deripaska had ties with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin. By aiding Deripaska, who was under indictment last year on sanctions charges, McGonigal violated U.S law and his solemn oath.
Former prosecutor for the Justice Department’s national security division Jonathan C. Poling stated “This is an unprecedented case, which rightly or wrongly will fuel political criticism and concern about the F.B.I.,” and that “The charges demonstrate D.O.J. clearly intends to send a strong message, including to former officials that worked in national security fields.”
Micheal J. Driscoll, the assistant director of the FBI’s New York office ensured that the bureau was committed to enforcing any economic sanctions designed to protect the US and its allies, adding that “There are no exceptions for anyone, including a former F.B.I. official like Mr. McGonigal.” He also added that Russian Oligarchs like Deripaska were known for “global malign influence on behalf of the Kremlin and are associated with acts of bribery, extortion and violence.”
McGonigal served the FBI for more than two decades, overseeing Russian counterintelligence, counterespionage and organized crime, even participating in the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. In his final years with the FBI, he was put in charge of the counterintelligence division of the bureau’s New York office, before retiring in September 2018. That same year, Mr Deripaska was put on the indictment sanction list. Deripaska then asked McGonigal to help his name be removed from the list, to which McGonigal agreed.
The Washington D.C indictment case charges McGonigal with one count of concealing material facts, six counts of making false statements and two counts of falsification of records and documents. It also covers McGonigal’s request for at least $225,000 in cash from the former Albanian intelligence employee, to whom he concealed his relationship with. And lastly, some “additional conduct” which was “in his official capacity” that “he believed would benefit” the person, Justice Department officials said.
McGonigal pleaded not guilty in a Manhattan court to the New York case charges and was released on a $500,000 bond McGonigal’s lawyer, Seth D. DuCharme released a statement saying, “Charlie served the United States capably, effectively, for decades,” said Mr. DuCharme. “We have closely reviewed the accusations made by the government and we look forward to receiving discovery so we can get a view on what the evidence is upon which the government intends to rely.”