A former top FBI official was arrested over the weekend on federal charges related to his alleged evasion of U.S. sanctions to accept payment for work done on behalf of a sanctioned Russian oligarch, Fox News reported.
Ironically, both that former agent, Charles McGonigal, and the Russian oligarch, Oleg Deripaska, were key players in the now-provably false Russian collusion narrative used as a weapon against former President Donald Trump.
Perhaps even more ironic is the fact that the arrest of McGonigal occurred just one day after the huge news that the FBI had conducted a search of President Joe Biden’s Delaware home for the unauthorized storage of classified documents when the former agent presumably could have been arrested much sooner.
Indicted and arrested
According to a Justice Department press release Monday, Charles McGonigal, the former special agent in charge of the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York, was arrested Saturday along with Sergey Shestakov, a former Soviet and Russian diplomat turned U.S. citizen and interpreter for courts and government.
The pair were indicted on charges of conspiracy and violation of the International Emergency Economic Powers Act as well as conspiracy and money laundering. Separately, Shestakov faces a charge of making false statements to investigators.
If convicted on the four main charges, the two arrestees could face up to 20 years in prison for each count, while Shestakov could face an additional five years in prison for the false statements charge.
Clear and knowing violations of U.S. sanctions
Per the DOJ press release, McGonigal and Shestakov are alleged to have conspired in 2021 to do work on behalf of Deripaska by way of prompting federal investigations against one of Deripaska’s Russian oligarch rivals in exchange for secret payments that were negotiated with an unidentified agent for the Russian to conceal his involvement in the scheme, namely through the use of shell companies and forged signatures.
In doing so, both McGonigal and Shestakov acted to evade U.S. sanctions against a Russian individual that they knew had been sanctioned by the U.S. government. Indeed, prior to McGonigal’s retirement in 2018, he had been informed that Deripaska would be added to the U.S. Treasury’s sanction list, and in 2019, both McGonigal and Shestakov tried unsuccessfully to have the sanctioned oligarch removed from that list.
“As alleged, Charles McGonigal, a former high-level FBI official, and Sergey Shestakov, a Court interpreter, violated U.S. sanctions by agreeing to provide services to Oleg Deripaska, a sanctioned Russian oligarch,” U.S. Attorney Damien Williams said. “They both previously worked with Deripaska to attempt to have his sanctions removed, and, as public servants, they should have known better. This Office will continue to prosecute those who violate U.S. sanctions enacted in response to Russian belligerence in Ukraine in order to line their own pockets.”
“Russian oligarchs like Oleg Deripaska perform global malign influence on behalf of the Kremlin and are associated with acts of bribery, extortion, and violence,” Michael Driscoll, the FBI Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office, said. “As alleged, Mr. McGonigal and Mr. Shestakov, both U.S. citizens, acted on behalf of Deripaska and fraudulently used a U.S. entity to obscure their activity in violation of U.S. sanctions.”
“After sanctions are imposed, they must be enforced equally against all U.S. citizens in order to be successful,” Driscoll added. “There are no exceptions for anyone, including a former FBI official like Mr. McGonigal. Supporting a designated threat to the United States and our allies is a crime the FBI will continue to pursue aggressively.”
The FBI and Russia, Russia, Russia
The real irony in all of this, according to the New York Post, is that McGonigal was reportedly among the first FBI officials to learn of the allegations that Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos had bragged about “Russian dirt” on 2016 Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, and reportedly sent the July 2016 email that triggered the baseless “Crossfire Hurricane” FBI investigation of then-candidate Donald Trump over alleged Russian collusion.
McGonigal also played a part in the FBI’s fraudulent efforts to obtain a FISA warrant to spy on Trump campaign adviser Carter Page, and by extension the entire campaign, which, along with the thoroughly discredited anti-Trump “Steele dossier” from a former British spy — to which Deripaska is also linked — served as the basis for years of anti-Trump media reports, FBI probes, and Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s inconclusive two-year investigation into alleged Russian collusion.
In the end, it looks like the FBI should have perhaps been examining itself and its own agents for illicit connections to sanctioned Russians instead of the Republican candidate for president who, per Mueller himself, did not conspire or coordinate with Russians during the 2016 election.