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Ex-FBI agent admits collusion with Russian tycoon

Former top counterintelligence official has pleaded guilty over his work for Oleg Deripaska

Charles McGonigal, the former counterintelligence head at the FBI’s New York bureau, made a plea deal on Tuesday on federal charges of conspiring with sanctioned Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska.

“I understand what my actions have resulted in, and I’m deeply remorseful,” McGonigal told Judge Jennifer Rearden at the Southern District of New York. “My actions were never intended to hurt the United States, the FBI, or my family and friends.”


Prosecutors initially charged McGonigal with money laundering and violating US sanctions, and he faced up to 20 years behind bars if convicted. Under the terms of Tuesday’s plea deal, the maximum sentence he could get is five years.

McGonigal, 55, was arrested in January at New York’s JFK airport after returning from a business trip abroad. Federal prosecutors charged him with illegally working for Deripaska, who was placed on the sanctions list for allegedly “interfering” with the 2016 US presidential election and threatening the territorial integrity of Ukraine.

After retiring from the FBI in 2018, McGonigal allegedly met with Deripaska in Vienna and London and arranged for a $175,000 monthly retainer to a New York law firm, of which $25,000 would go to McGonigal. The law firm was supposed to help Deripaska with getting the sanctions removed. In 2021, McGonigal allegedly took a job from Deripaska to investigate rival tycoon Vladimir Potanin. He allegedly worked alongside Sergey Shestakov, a court interpreter and former Soviet and Russian diplomat. 

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FILE PHOTO: Oleg Deripaska attends a meeting between businessmen and Russian President Vladimir Putin near St. Petersburg, Russia, August 9, 2016
Former FBI agent arrested over ties to Russian tycoon

The FBI concluded that McGonigal did not pass any classified information to foreign adversaries and that his misconduct was limited to corruption, the New York Times reported citing “people with knowledge of the case.”

McGonigal had been with the FBI for 22 years, participating in the TWA Flight 800 investigation and the 2010 investigation into WikiLeaks publication of State Department cables, among others. Then-director James Comey put him in charge of the New York Field Office counterintelligence division in October 2016. 

He also had a part in the Bureau’s ‘Crossfire Hurricane’ probe into president Donald Trump, also known as “Russaigate,” as shown by a message voicing concern that the FISA warrant to spy on Trump via campaign aide Carter Page would be “a real monster” if made public.

McGonigal faces additional charges in another federal court for allegedly taking $225,000 in bribes from Albania, as part of an oil exploration scheme. Prosecutors say he was paid by a former employee of Albanian intelligence working for a Chinese conglomerate, starting sometime in 2017. Though he initially pleaded not guilty, the Times says McGonigal is now negotiating terms for those charges as well.


August 16, 2023 at 04:30AM

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