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A former FBI counterintelligence chief who oversaw the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election has been arrested over his alleged ties to a Russian oligarch, law enforcement confirmed this week.
Charles McGonigal is under arrest for his ties to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, a man who’s been sanctioned by the U.S.
Notably, former FBI Director James Comey hired McGonigal in 2016 to lead the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division for the New York Field Office, the FBI announced in a press release on October 4, 2016.
Weeks later, the FBI concluded their investigation into Russian collusion, claiming there was no link between then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and Russian interference in the election, according to an October 31, 2016 report from the New York Times.
James Comey was harshly criticized by Democrats who claimed the FBI announcement of no Russian collusion and Comey’s public announcement of an investigation into Hillary Clinton just weeks before the November election swayed the outcome in favor of Trump.
Nearly seven years later, the man Comey hired to oversee the investigation into Russian collusion has been arrested for his ties to a sanctioned Russian billionaire.
Former top FBI official charged over ties to sanctioned Russian billionaire
Deripaska was criminally charged last year for violating those sanctions, and McGonigal, 54, has been charged with violating U.S. sanctions by trying to get Deripaska off the sanctions list, ABC News reported on Monday.
“Charlie has had a long, distinguished career with the FBI. He’s served the United States for decades,” McGonigal’s lawyer, Seth DuCharme, told ABC News in a statement. “This is obviously a distressing day for Mr. McGonigal and his family, but we’ll review the evidence, we’ll closely scrutinize it, and we have a lot of confidence in Mr. McGonigal.”
Retiring in 2018, McGonigal was arrested on Saturday after arriving at JFK airport, law enforcement sources told ABC News.
According to the Justice Department, McGonigal worked with another FBI investigator, Shestakov. They both allegedly agreed in 2021 to investigate a rival Russian businessman in exchange for payments from Deripaska.
McGonigal faces decades behind bars if convicted
The two former FBI investigators face charges of money laundering and violating U.S. sanctions, four counts that each carry a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
McGonigal has pleaded not guilty to the charges.
“The FBI is committed to the enforcement of economic sanctions designed to protect the United States and our allies, especially against hostile activities of a foreign government and its actors,” FBI Assistant Director in Charge Michael Driscoll said in a statement. “Russian oligarchs like Oleg Deripaska perform global malign influence on behalf of the Kremlin and are associated with acts of bribery, extortion, and violence.”
Telling friends he worked for a “rich Russian guy,” McGonigal allegedly worked for Deripaska after retiring from the FBI. He allegedly received multiple payments of over $40,000 from Deripaska between August and November 2021.
He’s also facing charges that allege he received a $225,000 payment in cash from an Albanian businessman whom McGonigal knew worked for a foreign intelligence agency.
Deripaska was among two dozen Russian oligarchs the Treasury Department sanctioned in 2018 as punishment for “the Russian government’s ongoing and increasingly malign activities in the world.”