After initially pleading not guilty, a former FBI agent who has been charged by American authorities with working for a Russian oligarch who is subject to sanctions may now admit to circumventing American sanctions and money laundering.
According to Reuters, Charles McGonigal, 54, will have a change of plea hearing on August 15 according to a brief order written by U.S. District Judge Jennifer Rearden in Manhattan.
Involved in the investigation of the former president Trump’s ties to Russia, McGonigal, who resigned in 2018, was the former special agent in charge of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division in New York. The former FBI agent previously entered a not guilty plea to charges related to his work for sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska, including conspiring to violate and evade U.S. sanctions, money laundering, conspiring to commit money laundering, and conspiring to violate federal law against doing business with sanctioned individuals. McGonigal was detained by authorities in January on suspicion of accepting covert payments from Deripaska, the owner of the Russian aluminum business Rusal, in exchange for looking into a rival oligarch and trying in vain to have Deripaska’s sanctions lifted in 2019. Since his arrest, he has been free on a $500,000 bond.
McGonigal was required by law to inform the agency about his interactions with foreign authorities, but he reportedly concealed these relationships and instead pursued business and travel that conflicted with his job.
As U.S. prosecutors stepped up their attempts to monitor and implement sanctions against Russian officials and their alleged facilitators as a result of Moscow’s war against Ukraine, charges against McGonigal were brought.
Due to claims that Russia meddled in the 2016 presidential election, the U.S. banned two dozen Russian oligarchs and government officials in 2018. Deripaska was one of them. The Kremlin and Deripaska have denied interfering in the election. According to reports, McGonigal was a key player in the inquiry of Trump’s 2016 campaign’s ties to Russia.
McGonigal was reportedly one of the first FBI officials to learn that former Trump campaign adviser George Papadopoulos allegedly boasted that he knew Russians had information on then-presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, sparking the Russian election interference investigation, while serving as chief of the cybercrimes section at FBI headquarters in Washington, D.C.