(…) McGonigal, while still serving as a senior FBI official, became a fixer for Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama and his ruling Socialist Party. Albania is a staunch U.S. ally and NATO member, but since Rama took over in Tirana a decade ago, that small country has become a hotbed of corruption, plus Europe’s leading narcostate, with deep connections to Latin American drug cartels. Why the Biden administration turns a blind eye to all this remains a troubling question. Buying senior American officials such as McGonigal is part of how Rama keeps pulling it off. The Albanian opposition is up in arms over this scandal, featuring a top U.S. intelligence official serving as the fixer for the ruling Socialists.
McGonigal made several trips to Albania to help Rama, including in September 2017, when the accused was still a top FBI official. While this trip had an official FBI purpose, its unofficial purpose was helping out Rama by bullying his opponents in Albania. A new report by the Washington Post reveals some of this sordid visit:
“McGonigal, who was still working for the FBI at the time, gave the prime minister Bureau ‘paraphernalia’ and warned him against awarding lucrative drilling licenses to companies that were fronts for Russian interests. While McGonigal appeared to be acting in his role as a counterintelligence officer against Russian influence, prosecutors allege that, in fact, Neza and another Albanian man working with McGonigal, identified by prosecutors as an informal Rama adviser, had their own financial interests in the oil fields.”
The truth is worse than that. It’s bad enough that a top FBI official got involved unpleasantly, for cash, in the internal politics of an American ally. This column can report that what McGonigal did on that fateful trip to Albania was considerably worse than the federal authorities or media have admitted. High-level Albanian sources who witnessed McGonigal’s appalling conduct while he was in that country recount that the FBI senior official worked a shakedown operation on wealthy Albanians for personal profit.
McGonigal told successful Albanians, not all of whom were in the good graces of the Rama government, that they were facing imminent U.S. sanctions, which would destroy their businesses, seize their bank accounts, and end their foreign travel. However, McGonigal could fix this problem for a modest fee of a few million dollars. The message was clear: Pay me or I will destroy your life. The worried Albanians took this threat seriously, given McGonigal’s FBI position, and many of them paid up. Some paid “only” 3 million euros. Others paid much more.
Sources tell me that McGonigal shook down Shefqet Kastrati, Albania’s top oil magnate, for 12 million euros, worth nearly $15 million in 2017. Kastrati’s representatives have adamantly denied the allegation to the Washington Examiner. Apparently, McGonigal also attempted to get bribes from Samir Mane, a leading Albanian businessman, in a similar fashion. Balkan sources say that McGonigal’s haul from this shakedown was on the order of 30 million Euros, though that presumably was split with his Albanian partners.
Where did the money go? This was unlikely to have been a cash operation, given its sensitivity, and Balkan intelligence sources tell me that cryptocurrency, including bitcoin, was involved. Those sources say that McGonigal attempted similar shakedown operations in Albania’s neighbors, Macedonia and Montenegro, both of which contain significant ethnic Albanian minorities.
Details are murky and need thorough investigation, but Albanians in a position to know insist that they witnessed this unprecedented activity by Charles McGonigal when he was one of the FBI’s top officials. This is the worst scandal in the FBI’s long history. It demands immediate congressional investigation. What the DOJ has indicted McGonigal for looks like the small tip of an astonishingly corrupt Balkan iceberg. (Read more: Washington Examiner, 2/13/2023) (Archive)