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Former FBI agent sentenced to 4 years in prison for helping Russian oligarchs evade sanctions

by Nate Ostiller December 15, 2023 12:21 PM 2 min read
Charles McGonigal, the former head of counterintelligence for the FBI’s New York office, leaves Manhattan Federal Court after a court appearance on Feb. 9, 2023, in New York City. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
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Charles McGonigal, a former U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) officer, was sentenced to four years in prison on Dec. 14 for helping well-known, Kremlin-linked Russian oligarchs evade sanctions and launder money.

McGonigal formerly worked as the top FBI counterintelligence officer in New York, one of the more important positions in the bureau, before his retirement in 2018. He pleaded guilty in June 2023 to charges of working for sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, which resulted in the Dec. 14 sentence.

While an FBI officer, McGonigal investigated Deripaska, known for having a personal relationship with Russian leader Vladimir Putin. Deripaska was sanctioned by the U.S. in 2018 for his connections to the Kremlin and other unlawful activities, including allegedly ordering a murder.

Following McGonigal's retirement, the U.S. Justice Department (DoJ) said that he went to work for Deripaska in 2021 in violation of the sanctions he had helped implement. The DoJ said that McGonigal agreed to investigate another oligarch, Vladimir Potanin, on behalf of Deripaska and hid the payments for his service so as not to arouse suspicion.

McGonigal pleaded guilty in September on separate charges of unlawfully accepting $225,000 from an Albanian businessman while he was an FBI officer. He still awaits sentencing on this charge.

Since the full-scale invasion, the U.K. and other Western countries have increasingly cracked down on Russian oligarchs, many of whom have assets in the West. Deripaska was among the top Russian oligarchs sanctioned by the U.K. in March 2022.

Deripaska also has cautiously and softly criticized Russia's full-scale war, saying in March 2022 that "peace is very important."

The Financial Times reported in December 2022 that a Russian court ordered the seizure of a $1 billion hotel belonging to Deripaska. Sources alleged that the seizure was related to Deripaska's statements about the war.

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