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Who is Charles McGonigal? The former FBI official charged with taking money from Russian oligarch

Former FBI official, Charles McGonigal, has been charged with accepting money from a Russian oligarch, undermining US sanctions on the Kremlin.

Former FBI official, Charles McGonigal, has been charged with accepting money from a Russian oligarch, undermining US sanctions on the Kremlin.
Michael M. SantiagoGetty

Charles McGonigal joined the FBI in 1996 and moved up the ranks quickly.

In 2016, then-FBI Director James Comey appointed McGonigal as head of the agency’s Counterintelligence Division based out of the New York City office.

Today, however, in a shocking twist of events, McGonigal was arrested on charges alleging that he accepted money from Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, violating US sanctions against Kremlin-tied officials.

The unsealed indictment brought forward by the US District Court for the Southern District of New York claims that McGonigal and a former Russian diplomat and translator “agreed to and did investigate a rival Russian oligarch of Deripaska in return for concealed payments from Deripaska, in violation of sanctions the United States imposed on Deripaska in 2018.” After leaving the FBI in 2019, the document alleges that McGonigal began to work closely with Deripaska, in an effort to get the sanctions against the Russian businessman lifted.

Who is Charles McGonigal?

Before his career at the FBI, McGonigal attended Johns Hopkins University, where he studied Business Adminstration, going on to work in the banking industry.

In the mid-90s, McGonigal began his two-decade career at the FBI and was involved in some of the highest-profile cases handled by the agency during his tenure. For example, in 2010, McGonigal served as the head of the FBI’s WikiLeaks Task Force, building the case that eventually led to the arrest of whistler blower and activist Chelsea Manning. In 2014, McGonigal was promoted to assistant special agent in charge of the Baltimore Field Office’s Cyber, Counterintelligence, Counterproliferation and Espionage programs.

Who is Oleg Deripaska?

Deripaska is a Russian billionaire who has started, owned, and managed various companies in the country’s energy and industrial production sectors. Before 2018, Deripaska was the leader of the second-largest aluminum company in the world, United Company Rusal, and served as the president of the Russian energy company En+ Group.

His leaving these companies coincided with US sanctions against the businessman in response to the 2014 Russian invasion of Crimea. Both companies above were sanctioned in 2018, and while they were lifted in 2019, those that targeted Deripaska personally remained in place.

When did Deripaska and McGonigal begin collaborating?

When the US began imposing sanctions on Deripaska, McGonigal was connected with a former Soviet and Russian diplomat and intelligence officer who “worked for and reported to Deripaska and served as an officer of a corporation that, in 2018, was primarily owned by Deripaska and itself subjection to sanctions.” The individual, referred to in the indictment as Agent-1, asked McGonigal if he could help his daughter get an internship with the New York Police Department. McGonigal informed his superiors of the request, and the internship was granted as a means for the agency to “recruit” Agent-1.

In 2019, after McGonigal retired from the FBI, he met Deripaska at his homes in London and Vienna. In the years that followed, prosecutors allege that McGonigal conspired to violate US sanctions and that he “willfully attempted to and did make and receive a contribution of funds, goods, and services to and for the benefit of Oleg Deripaska.” Accepting such contributions was illegal because the Russian oligarch had been listed as a “specially designated person” as a part of the US sanctions package.