Charles McGonigal pleads guilty to aiding the Russian oligarchy

The FBI’s former counterintelligence chief in New York pleaded guilty Tuesday in federal court in Manhattan to reduced charges of conspiring to violate U.S. sanctions and taking payments from a prominent Russian oligarch.

Former agent Charles F. McConnell’s plea represented a remarkable turnaround for a man who once occupied one of the most sensitive and trusted positions in the U.S. intelligence community, making him one of the highest-ranking FBI officials ever convicted. crime

On Tuesday, Federal District Court Judge Jennifer H. When Reardon appeared, an emotional Mr. McConnell stood up and said he violated the law after retiring from the job in 2018 as an expert on Russian counterintelligence from the bureau. An attempt to investigate a rival, Oleg V. Deripaska, a Russian billionaire, under US sanctions.

“I understand what my actions have resulted in and I am deeply sorry,” said Mr. McGonigal said, her voice breaking. “My actions were not intended to offend the United States, the FBI, or my family and friends.”

The conspiracy charge to which he pleaded guilty was newly filed by prosecutors on Tuesday to replace the original indictment handed up by a grand jury in January, which included more serious charges of violating US sanctions and money laundering. Under the plea agreement, Mr. The maximum sentence McGonigal could serve is five years in prison, instead of the 20 years he would have otherwise faced.

In court, Mr. McGonigal, 55, was placed on the US sanctions list in 2018 by Mr. He told the judge he knew he could not legally perform services for Deripaska. “Open source” information on Vladimir Potan, Mr Deripaska’s business rival, could be used in a 2021 attempt to put Mr Potanin on the sanctions list.

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He knowingly agreed to arrangements for payments from a Russian bank through a company in Cyprus and then through a corporation in New Jersey, the source of the money being Mr. To hide that Deripaska.

Judge Reardon, Mr. McConnell’s sentencing is scheduled for Dec. 4.

In the initial charging document, attorneys for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York, Mr. McGonigal and an associate, Mr. Mr. Potanin. Deripaska.

But on Tuesday, Mr. McGonigal told the judge she only earned $17,500, and she agreed to forfeit that amount. His plea agreement made no mention of a larger sum, and a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in the first charging document that Mr. He declined to explain why he accused McConnell and his partner of earning so much while working for the syndicate.

This petition was filed in New York by Mr. The prosecution of McGonigal brings the trial to a relatively quick conclusion after less than seven months. In January, John F. He was arrested by FBI agents at Kennedy Airport upon his return from a foreign business trip.

Mr. McConnell still faces a second indictment brought by federal prosecutors in Washington, which accuses him of concealing the acceptance of $225,000 from a businessman and transactions that took place while working at the bureau in Eastern Europe. Mr. McGonigal pleaded not guilty to the charges but is in settlement negotiations; His attorney, Seth D. Ducharme told the judge overseeing the Washington case that he expects to provide an update on the negotiations after Labor Day.

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Mr. Although McGonigal was privy to highly classified information, a three-year investigation found no evidence that she had passed secrets to foreign adversaries, according to people familiar with the case who spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss the current matter. The FBI concluded that McGonigal’s misconduct bordered on corruption, the people said.

Russian President Vladimir V. Dubbed “Putin’s Oligarch” because of his close ties to Putin, Mr. Deripaska is the most famous of the businessmen who became wealthy as Russian state resources were given to Kremlin cronies. After the collapse of the Soviet Union. Mr. Deripaska and others were accused by federal prosecutors in New York last year of violating U.S. sanctions through real estate deals and other activities. Mr. Deripaska, a Russian citizen, is unlikely to be extradited to face charges in the future.

Before the US government expanded sanctions in 2018 following Russian interference in the 2016 US presidential election, Mr. Mr. Deripaska’s name on the preliminary sanctions list Around the same time, Mr. Deripaska with Mr. They suggested that McGonigal was looking for a connection. (It was actually a “VIP-type tour,” a senior police official said.)

Mr. After McGonigal retired, he and his co-defendant in the New York case, a court interpreter, former Russian ambassador Sergei Shestakov, the same Deripaska aide, referred him to the law firm for help with sanctions relief. New York.

While negotiating the law firm agreement, Mr. Mr. McGonigal, Vienna and London. met with Deripaska, referring to him as a “Vienna client” in electronic communications, prosecutors said. Mr. Deripaska paid the law firm $175,000 a month; The company paid $25,000 to Mr. Prosecutors said they provided McGonigal as a consultant and investigator.

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Mr. Shestakov has pleaded not guilty to charges of violating US sanctions, money laundering, conspiracy and making false statements to the FBI. His lawyer, Rita M. Clavin did not respond to a request for comment.

In the spring of 2021 Mr. Agreement to investigate Potanin Mr. Prosecutors said it was done with an aide to Deripaska.

In November of that year, Mr. McGonigal and Mr. Shestakov tried to get the “dark web” files, Mr. About $500 million in hidden assets held by Botan, in exchange for $3 million, Rebecca Talia Dell, an assistant U.S. attorney, told the court on Tuesday. Before that transaction was completed, FBI agents arrested Mr. McGonigal and Mr. Shestakov’s electronic devices were seized, Mr. They ended their work for Deripaska, prosecutors said.

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