(Bloomberg) -- The investigation and arrest of a retired Federal Bureau of Investigation official for allegedly laundering money and violating US sanctions against Russia shows the agency can police itself, FBI Director Christopher Wray said.
Wray spoke publicly for the first time about the case against Charles McGonigal, a former special agent in charge of the FBI’s Counterintelligence Division in New York who was charged in an indictment unsealed Monday.
McGonigal faces several charges, including allegedly working with Russian Oligarch Oleg Deripaska, whom he had been responsible for investigating, in exchange for concealed payments. McGonigal pleaded not guilty in Manhattan federal court and was released on $500,000 bond.
As special agent in charge, McGonigal held a national security clearance and was responsible for supervising counterintelligence and national security matters. That included participation in secret investigations of Russian oligarchs, including Deripaska, according to prosecutors. He retired in 2018.
Wray said it was FBI agents who “methodically and professionally” put together the case against McGonigal.
“What I think the charges in this case demonstrate is the FBI’s willingness as an organization to shine a bright light on conduct that is totally unacceptable, including when it happens from one of our own people, and to hold those people accountable,” Wray told reporters in Washington on Friday.
Wray is facing criticism over the case, particularly from conservative lawmakers who already vowed to investigate him and the FBI over unrelated actions.
“We’re talking about a guy who’s been gone from the FBI for well over four years now,” Wray said. “It’s the FBI that initiated this investigation. It’s the FBI and our agents that painstakingly and methodically put the case together against him. And it’s the FBI that arrested him.”
Wray added that McGonigal’s conduct is “not remotely representative of what I see from the men and women of the FBI every single day.”
Attorney General Merrick Garland also weighed in on the controversy, saying every federal employee takes an oath to support the US Constitution and faithfully discharge the duties of their offices.
“We take that oath seriously and we will make sure that anyone who doesn’t fulfill that oath is held accountable,” Garland told reporters.
The case is US v. McGonigal, 23-cr-00016, US District Court, Southern District of New York (Manhattan).
(Adds background on the former agent’s clearance and duties.)
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