Former FBI official convicted in US for helping Russian oligarch circumvent sanctions

A New York court has sentenced Charles McGonigal to 50 months in prison after he pleaded guilty to violating US sanctions by helping a Russian oligarch obtain information about his business rival.

In New York, the Manhattan District Court has handed down a verdict in the case of former Federal Bureau of Investigation employee Charles McGonigal, whom prosecutors accused of working for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, a man close to the Russian president.

While this court case refers to sanctions evasion that took place before Russia’s all-out war, it is a strong signal to all companies involved in helping Russia circumvent sanctions now. It shows that a heavy penalty for this violation can come years later.

The judge sentenced McGonigal, who worked in the FBI’s New York office, to 50 months in prison and ordered him to pay a $40,000 fine. Earlier, Charles McGonigal pleaded guilty and repented of his actions, and instead of the five years the prosecutor’s office insisted on, the judge sentenced him to four years and two months.

“Charles McGonigal violated the trust his country placed in him by using his high-level position at the FBI to prepare for his future in business. Once he left public service, he jeopardized our national security by providing services to Oleg Deripaska, a Russian tycoon who acts as Vladimir Putin’s agent. Today’s sentence is a reminder that anyone who violates United States sanctions, particularly those in whom this country has placed its trust, will pay a heavy penalty, the Justice Department said.

In a federal court, McGonigal pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to violate the International Emergency Economic Powers Act and money laundering, the Justice Department said.

The charge refers to a 2021 scheme to evade US sanctions on behalf of Oleg Deripaska, an aluminum magnate and ally of Russian president Vladimir Putin.

A court ruled the former FBI agent guilty of striking a deal with a businessman close to Putin to uncover damaging information on Deripaska’s rival, oligarch Vladimir Potanin, in exchange for undisclosed payments from Deripaska. He also tried to get Deripaska removed from the US sanctions list.

A senior former FBI agent, Charles McGonigal, headed the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division in New York from 2016 to 2018. During the trial, the prosecutor’s office noted that during these years he was investigating Russian oligarchs, including Deripaska.

Prosecutors also accused him of planning to continue working closely with the Russian oligarch after leaving government service, but his plans were thwarted by colleagues in the same FBI unit he led, according to a statement from prosecutors.

The US authorities tightened their fight against companies and individuals involved in sanctions circumventions that help Russia evade penalties for its all-out war against Ukraine.

The creation of schemes that enable Russia to circumvent sanctions helps Putin’s war machine, prolongs the war in Ukraine, and threatens to spread the conflict further to the West.

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