On January 23, 2023, the US media published the news of the arrest of former senior FBI official Charles McGonigal. He is accused of working for a Russian oligarch. In the documents of the American court where the charges against McGonigal are listed, the “Prime Minister of Albania” is mentioned 14 times, as a person with whom the accused met several times and hid this fact from his mandatory reports to the FBI.
The case has caused a lot of noise and controversy in Albania, making it difficult to separate facts from speculation, so Faktoje decided to shed light on what is officially said by American justice.
Two indictments against McGonigal
In the New York indictment , McGonigal is accused of violating the economic sanctions imposed by the United States of America on Russia, after the start of the war in Ukraine. McGonigal is also accused of laundering money through a US company, which he used to receive payments from the Bank of Russia, for services provided to sanctioned Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska.
The second indictment , made public in Washington DC, accuses McGonigal that while serving as a senior FBI official, he secretly received $225,000 from a person who he then used as a witness in his own investigation, without informing the FBI about the relationship he had with this person. The investigation was related to an American citizen, contracted to lobby in the USA on behalf of an “Albanian politician of a party other than that of the Prime Minister of Albania.
*facsimile of the indictment of the Columbia prosecutor’s office, which mentions the lobbying of the Albanian politician for whom the investigation was opened by McGonigal
Where and how is Albania mentioned in the indictment against McGonigal?
Albania and its Prime Minister Rama are mentioned in only one of the two indictments filed against McGonigal, that of the Columbia prosecutor’s office in South Carolina .
The “Prime Minister of Albania” is mentioned fourteen times in the indictment of 16 pages. He is the only person easily identified in the indictment. Other references are unidentifiable in themselves, such as that of the “Kosovar politician” or the “foreign national” before whom McGonigal revealed his work at the FBI.
*facsimile of the indictment of Columbia where the Prime Minister of Albania is mentioned
According to the 9 charges of American justice in Columbia against McGonigal, he hid information from the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) about meetings or relationships with certain people. Among them, McGonigal did not report on the meetings held with the Prime Minister of Albania, Edi Rama and at least two other people of Albanian citizenship ( in the indictment they are known as: Person A and Person B ).
Who are these people?
Charles McGonigal – served as an officer of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, FBI, from 1996 until his retirement in 2018. From 2016 to 2018, he was the FBI’s chief of counterintelligence in New York.
Person A (Agron Nezaj) – In the US indictment, Person A is an Albanian citizen, with a US passport, who lives and has a business in New Jersey. He is McGonigal’s friend. A US Grand Jury document to the FBI requesting more information from witnesses in the case confirmed that Person A is Agron Nezaj, owner of Spectrum Risk Solutions, Inc and A&E International.
Person B (Dorian Duçka) – Albanian citizen employed by a Chinese energy conglomerate. He acted as an informal adviser to the Prime Minister of Albania, with an official email account and [service or diplomatic ] passport of the Albanian government. He was a senior official of the Albanian government. Even the identity of Person B as Dorian Ducka has been revealed through the Grand Jury document. Dorian Ducka and Agron Nezaj were friends and business associates with each other, according to the American indictment.
*US Grand Jury request to gather more information on the McGonigal case
Allegations related to Albania
– Withholding meetings and relationship with Edi Rama
One of the main charges against McGonigal is withholding, falsification and false reporting on his meetings with the Prime Minister of Albania. On two separate occasions, McGonigal either falsely reported meetings with Edi Rama on the FBI form, or did not report such a meeting at all.
According to American justice, McGonigal and Prime Minister Rama met four times in 2017-2018, twice in Albania and two more times in the United States:
First meeting – September 2017, Albania . Four days before leaving for Albania, McGonigal notified the FBI of an “unofficial” trip to Tirana. McGonigal withheld the fact that he would be accompanied on the trip by Agron Neza and that their expenses would be paid by third parties.
*facsimile of indictment showing McGonigal’s withholding of information
During the meeting with Prime Minister Rama and Dorian Ducka, McGonigal pushed by Agron Nezaj, urged Prime Minister Rama not to grant a license for oil exploration in Albania to a Russian company. Ducka and Neza had financial interests in the Albanian government’s oil exploration licenses. A month later, McGonigal lied on the FBI form, not reporting the meeting with Prime Minister Rama.
*McGonigal withholds the meeting with Rama in September 2017
Second meeting – November 2017, Albania . During a trip to Austria and then Albania, McGonigal hid from the FBI that he was traveling with Agron Neza. After returning to the USA, McGonigal also hid the fact that together with Neza, they had met Dorian Ducka and the Albanian Prime Minister in Albania.
*McGonigal withholds information about the meeting with Rama in November 2017
Third meeting – December 2017, USA . McGonigal had dinner in New York City with Agron Neza and the Prime Minister of Albania.
Fourth meeting – March 2018, USA . McGonigal dined in Washington DC with, among others, with the Prime Minister of Albania, Agron Neza, and a former FBI special agent who worked at an international professional services firm.
McGonigal and Agron Neza have travelled on other occasions together, even to Albania. In every case, McGonigal did not fully report the information on these trips or meetings.
-Encouraging the initiation of the DP lobbying investigation in the USA
Another charge against McGonigal is the fact that he triggered an investigation by the FBI, using as human source with whom he had a financial interest. This is about the lobbying investigation in the USA of “an Albanian politician who is a member of a party other than that of the Prime Minister”, as stated in the indictment. In Albania, this investigation is widely known as the ” Nik Muzin file ” of the lobbying of the Democratic Party in America before the 2017 elections.
November 25, 2017 – McGonigal notified the Department of Justice of the possible lobbying investigation of the Democratic Party of Albania in the US. What McGonigal did not tell is that the information had come to him the day before from Dorian Ducka, advisor to Prime Minister Edi Rama. McGonigal even hid from the FBI the fact that four days ago, he had been in Albania where he had met Ducka and Prime Minister Rama.
January 22, 2018 – McGonigal received information from Agron Neza about the lobbyist contracted by the Albanian Democratic Party and passed this information to the FBI in New York. Neza had received the information from Prime Minister Rama’s office.
February 26, 2018 – The FBI at the request and under the direction of McGonagall officially opened the criminal investigation on the American citizen lobbyist, contracted by the DP in Albania. Agron Neza then served as an informant for this investigation. Further, Dorian Ducka helped to facilitate a meeting between the FBI and the witnesses of the case who were located in Europe, among other things by paying for the expenses of the witnesses. Throughout this time, McGonigal hid from the FBI the social and financial relationship that connected him with Agron Neza, as well as the acquaintance or meetings he had with Dorian Ducka.
In fact, a few months before the opening of this investigation, McGonigal had received $225,000 from Agron Neza, money that he had not declared on FBI forms.
Other questions related to Albania
US justice indictments are based on the laws of the United States of America and assess whether or not these laws are enforced. In no case does the FBI investigate violations of the laws of other countries, in this case Albania. For this reason, every question that arises on the actions of Prime Minister Rama, disclosed in the indictment, will have to be investigated by an Albanian prosecutor as the only prosecutor who has the legitimacy to evaluate whether the Albanian law is violated.
A number of questions related to Albania that are raised in the Columbia indictment, but cannot be investigated by American justice, are:
1 – November 2017 , McGonigal urged Prime Minister Rama to make an economic decision in favour of his friend and business partner, Agron Neza. Withholding information about the meeting from the FBI proves that McGonigal did not go to Rama’s office as a senior FBI official, but as a private person. Whether Prime Minister Rama listened to Mr. McGonigal and whether McGonigal and Agron Neza benefited from the decisions of the Albanian government on the granting or not of oil exploration licenses in Albania can only be investigated in cooperation with Albanian justice.
2 – November 2018 , McGonigal and Agron Neza talk about business opportunities with an Albanian politician/businessman, whom they interviewed the day before for the investigation of a plan to kill the Albanian politician. The FBI has no records of this interview. Who is the Albanian politician/businessman who asked McGonigal to investigate because he was afraid they wanted to kill him? Did this politician/businessman turn to the Albanian prosecutor’s office to report on it? Did the Albanian politician/businessman enter into a business relationship with McGonigal and Neza?
The McGonigal case will continue to occupy the headlines in Albania, as long as the story remains unsolved. Until now, Prime Minister Edi Rama has refused to hold himself accountable to the voters in the parliamentary session where a question and answer session on this issue was scheduled.
The media in Albania and America continue to publish new details on the issue, often pushing certain agendas. It remains to be seen what the outcome of the US Justice investigation will be, so we may understand to what extent McGonigal violated US law. Further gathering of information on this matter is likely to shed more light on McGonigal’s connections with Prime Minister Edi Rama. One thing is certain, for the investigation of the violation or not of the Albanian law, the responsibility remains with the Albanian state and the special anti-corruption prosecutor’s office (SPAK), set up specifically for such cases.