Charles McGonigal — the former FBI official who has been arrested and indicted by US authorities over his ties to Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska – has quietly spent the past year working for another Russian-born billionaire, The Post has learned.
Aman Resorts, a five-star hotel chain owned by Vladislav Doronin – a martial-arts-trained property magnate who has been branded “Russia’s answer to Donald Trump” – hired McGonigal in the spring of 2022 for a high-dollar job as director of security for Aman’s 34 locations around the world, according to sources with direct knowledge of the situation.
Indeed, sources speculated that when McGonigal was arrested at JFK Airport on Saturday he was returning from a business trip in Sri Lanka, where Aman operates a pair of swanky hotels.
Sources said McGonigal worked for Aman out of New York City, where the company opened its first property in August on Fifth Avenue and 57th Street in the former Crown building, quickly earning the reputation as the most expensive property in the Big Apple with room rates starting at $2,400 per night.
A former Aman employee who left the hotel said that the office culture was more Russian than American and could be “demanding” and “uncomfortable.”
In a statement a spokesperson for the company said, “Aman Group was founded 35 years ago and has built its own distinctive culture enriched by its global presence in over 20 countries, reflecting the contributions from and collaboration with a diverse, international staff of 6,500 employees worldwide.”
The spokesperson also confirmed the hotel hired McGonigal last year, but maintained that his tenure began just a few months ago.
“Mr. McGonigal was hired by Aman Group in the fall of 2022 as global head of security, based on his qualifications and similar role in the real estate industry, as well as his two decades with the Federal Bureau of Investigation,” according to the statement.
The company said McGonigal is no longer working for Aman Group, but it it did not disclose when he left.
In September, Business Insider reported that federal prosecutors were looking at McGonigal’s involvement with Deripaska, a Russian billionaire who was sanctioned by the US and had allegedly turned to McGonigal to get the sanctions removed.
“Based on his background, we thought it was very strange that he was brought in” – and that McGonigal stayed after reports surfaced that he was under investigation, one former Aman employee said.
“The process was very obscure,” another source added. A corporate director of security at Aman “had been in place,” but was reassigned and “no apparent reasons were given,” according to the source. “It was then when Charlie showed up.”
Following McGonigal’s 2018 retirement from the FBI – where he was head of counterintelligence at the agency’s New York office and had led the Trump “Russiagate” probe into whether Russia interfered with the 2016 presidential election – McGonigal was hired as a senior vice president for global security at real-estate giant Brookfield Properties.
He left that position in January 2022, Brookfield said. McGonigal – whose hiring at Aman raised eyebrows among hotel staffers, according to the sources – told Aman employees that he left Brookfield for “personal reasons,” a source close to the situation told The Post.
Former CIA, FBI and NSA officials are routinely hired by large companies that are targets of espionage and cyber threats, said Anthony Roman, president of risk management firm, Roman & Associates.
“It’s an easy and regular stop for these officials,” Roman said.
McGonigal’s attorney Seth DuCharme did not respond for comment. The Department of Justice also did not respond.
On Monday, 54-year-old McGonigal was indicted for money laundering and violating US sanctions law. The Justice Department alleges that McGonigal along with a former Russian diplomat turned interpreter for the federal courts – Sergy Shestakov – worked for Deripaska, an aluminum magnate that had been sanctioned by the US in 2018.
During his tenure at the FBI, McGonigal supervised investigations of oligarchs, including Deripaska, who was sanctioned by the US for allegedly acting on behalf of the Russian government in the energy sector. The government alleges that Deripaska hired the pair to get him off of the sanctions list and to investigate one of his rival oligarchs, paying them through shell companies.
McGonigal pleaded not guilty and was released on a $500,000 bond.
Doronin’s ties to McGonigal will surely raise more questions as prosecutors scrutinize his relationship with Russia, experts say.
“With Doronin, it’s not the same as Deripaska, who is under sanctions,” said Louise Shelley, founder and executive director of the Terrorism, Transnational Crime and Corruption Center, and chair of the Schar School of Policy and International Affairs at George Mason University.
“But McGonigal was on the payroll of a powerful Russian,” Shelley added, referring to the fact that McGonigal was on Aman’s payroll. “It’s certainly a cushy job that pays an awful lot. It’s a very good job to get in retirement, but it makes him more tied to the Russian elite around the world.”
Born in the Soviet Union, 60-year-old Doronin renounced his Russian citizenship in 1986. He is now a citizen of Switzerland and Sweden and has spoken out against the war in Ukraine. He bought Aman in 2014 and moved its headquarters to Sweden.
Doronin dated supermodel Naomi Campbell for several years before his current partner, Kristina Romanova, a former Russian model who is an Aman executive. He is a martial-arts devotee of Qigong, having reportedly shown off his ability to smash slabs of marble with his head and break metal-tipped wooden spears against his throat, according to Wikipedia.
Doronin, who also owns real estate development company OKO Group, has said in media interviews that he ended his business ties in Russia in 2014, when he sold his stake in the Moscow-based real estate firm Capital Group.
Last year, RealDeal reported that court papers showed he held a stake in a separate Moscow-based company as recently as 2022, when he transferred ownership to his mother who still lives in Russia. Doronin responded that the firm merely held “legacy assets” that were being slowly liquidated and that he hasn’t been involved in any development activity since 2014.
Last year, Doronin sued the Aspen Times for defamation claiming that the publication falsely portrayed him as a Russian “oligarch” in a series of articles about land he purchased in the area.
The lawsuit was settled and the editor of The Aspen Times, Andrew Travers, was fired. Travers penned an article in The Atlantic in August about the paper’s flap with Doronin under the headline, “End Times in Aspen: How to Kill a Newspaper.”
In a statement about the lawsuit, the Aman spokesperson said “the paper itself ultimately said [the articles] did not meet its ‘standards for accuracy, fairness and objectivity.’ Likewise, The Aspen Times expressed regret for the statements Mr. Doronin asserted were libelous and retracted and corrected several articles.”
Jennifer Gould contributed reporting.
Comments are closed.