NEW YORK, Jan. 23 (Reuters) – A former top FBI official was charged on Monday with working for sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska as US prosecutors ramp up efforts to enforce sanctions against Russian officials and monitor their alleged facilitators.
Charles McGonigal, who headed the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York before retiring in 2018, pleaded not guilty to four criminal counts, including sanctions and money laundering violations, at a hearing in Manhattan federal court.
He was released on $500,000 bail after his weekend arrest.
Prosecutors said McGonigal, 54, received hidden payments in 2021 from Deripaska, who was sanctioned in 2018, in exchange for investigating a rival oligarch.
McGonigal was also accused of unsuccessfully pushing in 2019 for sanctions against Deripaska to be lifted.
Sanctions “must be applied equally against all U.S. citizens to be successful,” FBI deputy director Michael Driscoll said in a statement. “There are no exceptions for anyone, not even a former FBI official.”
Separately on Monday, federal prosecutors in Washington said McGonigal received $225,000 in cash from a former Albanian intelligence officer who had been a source in a foreign political lobby investigation McGonigal oversaw.
McGonigal faces nine charges in that case, including making false statements to conceal the nature of his relationship with the person from the FBI.
“This is clearly a troubling day for Mr. McGonigal and his family,” the defendant’s attorney, Seth DuCharme, told reporters after the Manhattan hearing. “We’ll review the evidence, we’ll scrutinize it, and we have a lot of faith in Mr. McGonigal.”
Deripaska, the founder of the Russian aluminum company Rusal (RUAL.MM), was one of 20 Russian oligarchs and government officials blacklisted by Washington in 2018 in response to Russia’s alleged interference in the 2016 US election.
He and the Kremlin have denied any interference in the election.
The Manhattan case also charged Sergey Shestakov, a former Soviet diplomat who later became a US citizen and interpreter of Russian for US courts and government agencies.
Prosecutors said Shestakov collaborated with McGonigal to help Deripaska and made false statements to investigators.
Shestakov pleaded not guilty on Monday and was released on $200,000 bail.
Enforcing sanctions is part of US efforts to pressure Moscow to end its war in Ukraine, what the Kremlin calls a “special military operation.”
Deripaska was charged last September with violating sanctions against him by arranging for his children to be born in the United States.
The following month, British businessman Graham Bonham-Carter was charged with conspiracy to violate sanctions by attempting to move Deripaska’s artwork out of the United States.
Deripaska is free and Bonham-Carter is fighting extradition to the United States.
Report by Luc Cohen in New York; Edited by Rosalba O’Brien, Bill Berkrot, Jonathan Oatis and Marguerita Choy
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