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Ex-FBI agent charged over ties to Russian oligarch

(AFP)

A former top FBI agent was charged Monday with violating US sanctions on Russia by working for indicted Russian tycoon Oleg Deripaska.

Charles McGonigal is accused of investigating a rival oligarch in return for secret payments from Deripaska, an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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America slapped sanctions on Deripaska in 2018 over his close ties to Russia’s government and its seizure four years before of the Crimea region from Ukraine.

The aluminum billionaire was then indicted in September last year over a scheme to obtain US citizenship for his two children in violation of the sanctions.

McGonigal, 54, is a former special agent in charge of the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York. He retired in 2018.

McGonigal supervised and participated in investigations of Russian oligarchs, including Deripaska, according to the government.

Prosecutors say that in 2021 he and Sergey Shestakov, a 69-year-old former Soviet and Russian diplomat, “conspired to provide services to Deripaska,” violating the sanctions.

“Specifically, following their negotiations with an agent of Deripaska, McGonigal and Shestakov agreed to and did investigate a rival Russian oligarch in return for concealed payments from Deripaska,” said a Department of Justice statement.

McGonigal has been charged with four counts, including conspiring to evade US sanctions, violating the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA) and money laundering.

Each carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.

Shestakov has also been charged with an additional count of making false statements to investigators.

The pair were arrested in New York on Saturday and are due to appear in Manhattan federal court on Monday afternoon.

Once Russia’s richest man, 55-year-old Deripaska is currently worth $3 billion, according to Forbes.

He founded of Basic Element, one of Russia’s largest industrial groups, whose interests include aluminum, energy, construction and agriculture.

Deripaska also owns significant shareholdings in EN+ Group and power company Eurosibenergo.

In 2018, the US Treasury Department said Deripaska was being investigated for money laundering, extortion and racketeering, and is tied to Russian organized crime and murder.

In 2021, FBI agents raided properties owned by Deripaska and worth millions of dollars in New York and Washington.

Last year, the United States charged British businessman Graham Bonham-Carter with helping Deripaska evade sanctions and is seeking his extradition from Britain.

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