A former high-ranking FBI agent along with a US court interpreter have been charged with violating US sanctions by helping Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska investigate a rival and engaging in money laundering.
Charles McGonigal, who previously served as special agent in charge of counter-intelligence at the FBI’s New York office and who had probed Deripaska, and Sergey Shestakov, a Russian diplomat turned US citizen and court interpreter, were arrested on Saturday evening, the Department of Justice said on Monday.
Since Russia’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine was launched little less than a year ago, Joe Biden’s administration has launched a broad crackdown on Russian oligarchs as part of its efforts to punish Moscow and limit its financial ties to the rest of the world. Washington has imposed sanctions and visa restrictions on a number of business executives close to President Vladimir Putin, and tightened the enforcement of existing sanctions.
“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’s assistant director in charge, said.
Deripaska is one of the few oligarchs to have spoken out against Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which he has called “madness” and a “colossal mistake” even while avoiding direct criticism of the Russian president.
He made his fortune in metals and was first sanctioned by the US in 2018, in response to Russia’s earlier annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.
McGonigal, who retired from the FBI in 2018, agreed in 2021 to “investigate a rival Russian oligarch in return for concealed payments from Deripaska”, the DoJ said.
He worked for the sanctioned oligarch both via a law firm and directly, prosecutors said. He was paid tens of thousands of dollars for his services, they alleged.
The 54-year-old McGonigal and 69-year-old Shestakov also attempted to get the sanctions against Deripaska lifted in 2019, prosecutors said.
Shestakov, who was a New York-based diplomat for both Soviet and post-Soviet Russia, had remained in the US to work as a Russian interpreter in federal courts.
If convicted, McGonigal could face a maximum of 80 years in prison, while Shestakov could face 85 years. “They both previously worked with Deripaska to attempt to have his sanctions removed, and, as public servants, they should have known better,” Damian Williams, the US attorney for the Southern District of New York said.
A representative for Deripaska did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
But his clashes with the Kremlin over the war have done little to mend his longstanding and hostile relationship with western authorities.
US authorities charged Deripaska and his associates in September with violating sanctions, while Ekaterina Voronina, Deripaska’s girlfriend, was charged with making false statements to US authorities as she attempted to enter the country to give birth to the couple’s child.
Graham Bonham-Carter, a British businessman who worked for Deripaska was arrested in London the following month, after being charged by US authorities for allegedly assisting his boss in evading sanctions.
Deripaska faces separate legal proceedings in the UK, where he is being accused of being in contempt of court.
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