Retired Top FBI Counterintelligence Official Worked With Ex Russian Intelligence Officer Close to Deripaska, Foreign Agent Paperwork Reveals
Sergey Shestakov, a former senior Soviet official, registered as a Foreign Agent for a top aide to Oleg Deripaska.December 20, 2021 2:36 pm
A former senior Soviet Foreign Ministry official in the U.S. filed as a Foreign Agent for a top aide to Russian billionaire Oleg Deripaska, who has been described by the U.S. Senate as a key figure in the Kremlin’s malign influence operations.
The paperwork filed under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) has raised numerous concerns from experts who have noted that the aide, Yevgenyi (Evgeny, Evgeniy) Fokin, has reportedly been flagged by the FBI as a former senior Russian intelligence official.
In addition, the filing raises questions about the involvement of a former senior FBI counterintelligence official who reportedly connected Fokin to a law firm and business intelligence consultants.
The FARA filing was first publicly spotted by Wendy Siegelman, an independent investigative journalist.
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The Foreign Agent filing
On Nov. 29, 2021, Sergey Shestakov, the former Soviet diplomat, registered as a Foreign Agent for Fokin, the alleged former senior Russian intelligence official.
Though the filing is scarce on details, Shestakov stated that he enlisted Charles F. McGonigal, the FBI’s former top counterintelligence official in New York, to connect Fokin to the law firm Kobre & Kim as well as “business intelligence consultants” Spectrum Risk Solutions.
“Mr. Fokin has contacted me seeking professional assistance in the US, which have resulted in the retention of the law firm of Kobre & Kim and later and separately the business intelligence consultants Spectrum Risk Solutions,” Shestakov stated. “I acted in hope that my assistance would result in a facilitation fee from the US entities retained, and I have received such fees.”
In an amendment filed two days after this article, Shestakov stated that he did not receive funds from Fokin, but rather got paid by Kobre & Kim and the “investigative firm,” Spectrum Risk Solutions.
“I received no monies from the foreign principal. However, on 11/27/19 I received a one-time payment of $25,000 from the law firm and on 10/18/21 I received a payment of $8,000 from the investigative firm, both referred to in the original filing,” Shestakov said. He also stated that his “activities on behalf of” Fokin have ceased.
Fokin now acts as the director of international cooperation for En+ Group, an energy conglomerate founded by Oleg Deripaska. A 2019 deal to remove En+ Group from U.S. sanctions stipulated that Deripaska must reduce his holdings in the group to under 50%, though he reportedly transferred some shares to family members and another group under his control.
In October, the FBI raided residences in Washington, D.C. and New York owned by people close to Deripaska in an unspecified criminal investigation. Information about what prompted the dramatic hours-long raids remains unclear.
Shestakov reported that the activity involving Fokin and McGonigal began over two-and-a-half years ago. FARA laws mandate that Foreign Agents, “must file a registration statement within 10 days of having agreed to act as an agent of a foreign principal.”
Anna Massoglia, a researcher at the Center for Responsive Politics and an expert on FARA, told Forensic News that the timing of the filing is notable, given the recent law enforcement activity at the Deripaska-connected houses.
“The timing of the filing is certainly noteworthy since it comes so long after the activities reportedly took place and so shortly after the FBI searched property linked to Deripaska,” she said.
Massoglia also stated that “the descriptions of the Deripaska ‘presumably’ supervising, directing, and controlling [En+] are particularly striking.” “This provides some corroboration for reports that Deripaska has retained significant influence over the companies’ operations,” despite the U.S. sanctions, Massoglia said.
Shestakov acted with the assistance of McGonigal, he reported, in connecting Fokin with Spectrum Risk Solutions, a business intelligence firm, and Kobre & Kim, a law firm.
In a statement to Forensic News, however, a Kobre & Kim spokesperson said that the firm “conducted no work covered by FARA for Yevgenyi Fokin or En+.” The spokesperson did not elaborate on why Kobre & Kim appeared on the FARA paperwork. Legal work can be exempt under FARA, according to Massoglia.
The only company Forensic News was able to identify by the name “Spectrum Risk Solutions” in the U.S. was incorporated in Delaware in 2018, according to OpenCorporates. Forensic News acquired the single document filed for Spectrum Risk Solutions in the corporate-secrecy haven of Delaware, but it did not give any indication of who is behind the company or what work it does.
Background on Fokin, Shestakov, and McGonigal
The Russian diplomat
Forensic News used a combination of corporate documents, property deeds, open-source research, and interviews with people familiar with the situation to confirm that the Shestakov in the FARA filing is the former Soviet diplomat.
The property records for Shestakov’s residence in Connecticut listed on the FARA documents show that the United Nations issued his mortgages, a rare benefit that only those with a direct relationship with the UN enjoy.
A background check on Shestakov revealed that he used at least two email addresses connected to the Russian-language networks RTVI and Media-Most and he appears on the corporate documents for companies related to the media groups.
That background information largely confirms a 2010 interview in which Shestakov is introduced as “a former Soviet Foreign Ministry official…and Vice President of the global Russian television network RTVI.” A second interview describes him as the Chief of Staff to former Soviet Ambassador to the UN, Alexander Belonogov. That account is corroborated by author Sharon Leontine Wallenberg.
Yana Agoureev, a relative of Shestakov’s who appears on the property deed for the Connecticut residence is a Russian interpreter who has acted on behalf of multiple high-profile Russian criminals. Her client list included Evgeny Buryakov, an SVR official convicted of espionage in New York, and Alexander Zhukov, a self-described “king of fraud.”
On Facebook, Agoureev is friends with Anatoli Samochornov, an interpreter who was present at the 2016 Trump Tower meeting with Donald Trump Jr, Paul Manafort, Jared Kushner, and other Russians who promised “dirt” on Hillary Clinton.
Shestakov did not respond to a detailed list of questions regarding the FARA paperwork and the persons involved.
The alleged former Russian intelligence officer
The foreign principal for whom Shestakov acted as an agent, Yevgenyi Fokin, is considered one of just a handful of individuals in Oleg Deripaska’s inner circle.
The Telegraph reported in 2018 that, “FBI officers identified Evgeny Fokin, who is the company’s Director of International Cooperation, as formerly being the SVR’s declared liaison officer with U.S. intelligence agencies in Washington DC in the mid-1990s.”
An Intelligence Online report added more details, stating that Deripaska “discreetly” turned to Fokin to help remove sanctions against En+. “Fokin, a former high-ranking officer with the SVR, is a keen strategist who knows the US authorities well, having been stationed in San Francisco and Washington several times between 1989 and 1995,” Intelligence Online reported. That timeline indicates that Fokin and Shestakov concurrently held high-level Soviet political positions.
Fokin has denied that he was previously employed by Russia’s foreign intelligence service, the SVR, but he did not respond to a detailed list of questions sent by Forensic News.
The 2019 activity described by Shestakov came as the Senate investigated Russian interference in the 2016 U.S. election. In that investigation, Fokin became a subject of interest because of his proximity to Deripaska and others suspected of interfering in the election, according to two sources familiar with the probe.
In 2016, Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort met multiple times with a suspected Russian intelligence agent close to Deripaska and, along with campaign co-chair Rick Gates, shared internal, detailed polling information regarding the campaign. Five years later, the U.S. Treasury Department said that the “sensitive information on polling and campaign strategy” was passed to Russia’s intelligence services.
The former senior FBI official
According to the FARA filing, Shestakov turned to Charles F. McGonigal, a former senior FBI official who left the Bureau just months prior to the filing. McGonigal became the Special Agent in Charge of Counterintelligence for the New York Office in 2016 and left in the fall of 2018, just months before he allegedly helped connect Fokin with the law firm and the opaque Spectrum Risk Solutions.
McGonigal spent 22 years with the FBI according to an official biography after starting his career investigating Russian counterintelligence matters. He led numerous high-profile cases for the FBI, including insider-espionage investigations and the 2010 criminal probe of WikiLeaks.
Shestakov stated that Fokin corresponded with him “on behalf of himself and/or his company” but the information filed by Shestakov did not stipulate whether McGonigal assisted Fokin on behalf of En+ or in a personal capacity.
McGonigal did not respond to messages seeking comment about his alleged work with Shestakov and Fokin.
The confluence of Shestakov, the former Soviet diplomat, Fokin, the alleged former senior SVR operative, and McGonigal, the former high-ranking FBI official working together sheds new light on the activities of those close to Deripaska at a time when multiple investigators were scrutinizing the malign activities of the Putin-ally.
The FBI investigation that resulted in the search warrants conducted at houses connected to Deripaska remains active.