The indictment in the case of 54-year-old Charles McGonigal has been published on the official website of the US Department of Justice. According to the department, he was commissioned by Deripaska to collect information about a major businessman from Russia, whose name is not given.
The ex-US agent was arrested in New York on January 23 and charged with violating US sanctions, conspiracy and money laundering for working for Deripaska. ABC News names McGonigal as one of the highest-ranking ex-FBI agents ever charged with a crime.
As follows from the conclusion, McGonigal was an FBI officer from 1996 to 2018, while in the last two years before retirement, he headed the FBI counterintelligence department in New York and participated “in investigations against Russian oligarchs”, including Deripaska.
Another defendant is Sergei Shestakov, 69, a former Soviet and Russian diplomat. Shestakov, according to the Ministry of Justice, worked at the USSR and Russian Foreign Ministries from 1979 to 1993, and after receiving American citizenship, he was a translator in US government agencies and courts. According to The Washington Post, the former agent could face up to 80 years in prison, and Shestakov up to 85, as he is also accused of perjury. McGonigal pleaded not guilty.
“You know who”
According to the conclusion, in 2019 McGonigal and Shestakov tried to organize the exclusion of Deripaska from the sanctions list, and in 2021, on the order of the businessman, they launched an investigation against another major Russian businessman, who is named in court documents as “Oligarch-2”. Prosecutors allege that Deripaska asked McGonigal and Shestakov, among other things, to “focus on Oligarch-2’s interest in a large Russian corporation” over which he fought Deripaska for “control”. The tasks of McGonigal and Shestakov included finding out what assets Oligarch-2 could have outside of Russia and whether this person had passports from other countries. The American authorities did not provide any information on Oligarch-2 and the company, which is in the center of interest of businessmen.
According to FBI Assistant Director Michael Driscoll, both detainees acted on Deripaska’s behalf and “fraudulently used an American organization to cover up their activities in violation of US law.” McGonigal was able to obtain information about assets worth $500 million before the start of searches from him in November 2021.
Long-owned by Deripaska, RUSAL was arguing for control of Norilsk Nickel with its main shareholder, Vladimir Potanin. Formally, the dispute was settled about 10 years ago, but at the end of last year it became known that RUSAL filed a new lawsuit against Potanin in the London High Court.
Also in August 2021, Forbes wrote that AFK Sistema by Vladimir Yevtushenkov and En+, founded by Deripaska, were in talks to share shares in Natura Siberica. However, the representative of the businessman stated that Deripaska had nothing to do with the crisis at Natura Siberica.
The indictment notes that McGonigal, after leaving the FBI, worked for Deripaska and received money from him through an offshore law firm. We are talking about different amounts: first $25 thousand, then $51 thousand, and after three more payments in the amount of about $41.8 thousand from August to November 2021. At the same time, the ex-FBI agent tried to hide his connection with Deripaska, told his friends that he was working for a “rich Russian guy,” and emphasized that his work was legal, the document says. In conversations with Shestakov, McGonigal often called Deripaska “a big man” and “you know who.”
During his FBI career, McGonigal worked on WikiLeaks, investigated former President Donald Trump’s ties to Russia, and led the autopsy case on US agents in China. The US authorities did not charge him with espionage, but, as it turned out, he worked, as it turned out, not only with Russia: another case was opened against McGonigal in Washington on charges of receiving $225,000 in cash from an Albanian citizen who worked for a Chinese energy company.
Deripaska, along with companies associated with him – IC Rusal, En +, Eurosibenergo – was on the sanctions list in April 2018. By December, the companies were able to negotiate with the US authorities to lift the sanctions. The main condition was to reduce Deripaska’s stake in En+ from about 70% to less than 45%. At the same time, the businessman himself and the GAZ Group, which he controls through Russian Machines, remained on the list.
The billionaire tried to challenge the sanctions in a US court, but in October 2022 he lost the main process and even the appeal. In the lawsuit, Deripaska claimed he was the victim of political infighting in the United States over alleged Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. According to Deripaska, the sanctions against him were imposed unfairly and illegally, as a result of which he suffered a loss of $ 7.5 billion, which then amounted to about 81% of his fortune.
This scandal in the United States related to Deripaska is far from the first. His name has repeatedly surfaced in various investigations related to Russia. So, in one of the investigations after the 2016 US presidential election, it turned out that Deripaska had worked for many years with the head of Trump’s campaign headquarters, Paul Manafort. This caught the attention of the FBI. Deripaska and Manafort confirmed that the latter received money from Deripaska for his work as a financial advisor. And in 2014, Deripaska accused Manafort of embezzling nearly $19 million intended for investment and sued him.