Ex-FBI agent linked to Russian oligarch admits to concealing payments, foreign trips

WASHINGTON – A former senior FBI agent pleaded guilty on Friday to a charge that he concealed US$225,000 (S$300,000) in cash payments from a former Albanian intelligence officer and prospective business partner.

Charles McGonigal, who led the FBI’s counterintelligence division in New York before retiring in 2018, pleaded guilty to a single charge of concealment of a material fact.

All other charges against him were dismissed.

McGonigal has already pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in a separate federal case in Manhattan related to his work for Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska while Deripaska was under US sanctions.

In Washington, McGonigal faced a nine-count indictment charging him with failing to report cash payments, contacts with foreign officials, and trips to Europe he took with the former Albanian intelligence officer in 2017 and 2018.

The trips were designed to lay the groundwork for a security consulting business the pair planned to start when McGonigal left the FBI, McGonigal told the judge.

In a brief statement in court on Friday, McGonigal admitted that he did not disclose the trips or the payments, which he characterised as loans, because he could not engage in personal business development while working for the FBI.

He apologised to the FBI for his conduct.

“This is not the situation I wanted to be in or to put them through,” he told US District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly.

US prosecutors say the former Albanian intelligence officer had business interests in Europe and was a source for an FBI investigation involving foreign lobbying that McGonigal supervised.

Speaking to reporters after the hearing, McGonigal’s lawyer Seth DuCharme said the case was a “cautionary tale” for public officials about the need to separate their government work from private business activities.

“He really looks forward to putting this all behind him,” Mr DuCharme said.

The concealment charge carries a maximum of five years in prison, but prosecutors will likely seek a more lenient sentence as part of the plea agreement. REUTERS


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