USA News

Gold bars, a luxury car, cash: Takeaways from the investigation into New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez


What there is to know

  • New Jersey Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife, Nadine Menendez, were indicted by a grand jury on federal corruption charges stemming from their relationship with three businessmen, prosecutors said, including possible relationships with a convicted criminal.
  • Prosecutors are reportedly looking into whether a businessman who faces more than a dozen bank fraud charges gave gold bars and cash worth more than $400,000 to the senior senator of the State and his wife.
  • Gold bars and cash are only part of the investigation; Authorities were investigating whether Menendez inappropriately accepted gifts, including the use of a Mercedes and a luxury Washington apartment, from the owners of a company that later won an exclusive government contract.

Democratic U.S. Senator Bob Menendez and his wife are accused of accepting bribes in the form of gold bars, a luxury car and cash in exchange for using their outsized influence in foreign affairs to help the Egyptian government – ​​and others – as well as other acts of corruption. according to an indictment unsealed Friday.

Investigators say they found nearly $500,000 in cash hidden in clothing and closets as well as $100,000 in gold bars during a search of the home the 69-year-old New Jersey senator shares with his female. Menendez is the powerful chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

The indictment, the second in eight years against Menendez, follows a years-long investigation that focused on his dealings with wealthy New Jersey businessmen.

New Jersey Senator Bob Menendez and his wife indicted on federal corruption charges

Menendez says he was falsely accused but “will not be distracted” from his Senate work, accusing prosecutors of misrepresenting “the normal work of a congressional office.”

The attorney for Menendez’s wife, Nadine, said she “denies any criminal conduct and will vigorously contest these accusations in court.”

USING YOUR INFLUENCE AS PRESIDENT

Menendez faces charges of bribery, fraud and extortion. The indictment includes a scathing list of alleged favors exchanged between the businessmen and Menendez, who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and has more powers and access to information than other senators do not have.

Using his position, Menendez took steps to covertly help the Egyptian government in exchange for bribes, the indictment says. And as president, he had unique influence over foreign military sales and foreign military financing. The indictment notes that Egypt is one of the largest recipients of U.S. military aid, including military equipment and subsidies of more than $1 billion a year. In recent years, the United States has withheld some aid due to concerns about human rights abuses.

The indictment accuses Menendez of disclosing nonpublic information to businessmen about U.S. military aid and the number and nationalities of employees at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. This information was then passed on to Egyptian officials. Prosecutors said Menendez also secretly wrote a letter on Egypt’s behalf to other senators asking for the hold on $300 million in aid to be lifted. He also, at one point, texted his wife to tell one of the businessmen that he was going to “sign off” on a sale of military equipment to Egypt.

The State Department generally seeks advice from the president and the senior minority senator on the foreign relations panel when it comes to foreign military financing and foreign military sales, and the department generally will not forward if one of the two senators objects.

Egypt’s Foreign Ministry did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

MAIN ACTORS

Menendez has served in public office continuously since 1986, when he was elected mayor of Union City, New Jersey. The son of Cuban immigrants, he served as a state legislator and spent 14 years in the U.S. House of Representatives. He was first appointed to his Senate seat in 2006.

His wife, formerly known as Nadine Arslania, 56, was unemployed before they met in 2018, but the following year she started a new consulting company, Strategic International Business Consultants LLC., the document states of accusation. A foreclosure case against her was closed shortly afterward.

After their marriage in 2020, she came into possession of a large amount of gold, some of which she later sold for between $200,000 and $400,000, according to the senator’s financial reports. Her lawyer, David Schertler, did not respond to a request for comment about his client’s international business work or how she acquired the gold bars.

The couple is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from three associates: Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes.

Hana is a friend of Nadine Menendez and the Egyptian-American founder of a company that certifies that beef imported into Egypt meets Islamic religious standards. He had no experience with Halal certification, but in 2019 the Egyptian government granted his company a monopoly.

He is accused of organizing and financing meetings and dinners with Menendez and Egyptian officials during which military sales and financing were discussed, according to the indictment. He also helped pay Nadine Menendez’s mortgage, the indictment says.

Fred Daibes is a wealthy real estate developer from Edgewater, New Jersey, who pleaded guilty to bank fraud charges last April and is expected to be sentenced to probation in October. He was also a longtime fundraiser for Menendez, who is accused of trying to use his influence to pressure the president to appoint a U.S. attorney for New Jersey who would protect Daibes.

Jose Uribe is also a New Jersey businessman in the trucking and insurance industry who was friends with Hana, according to the indictment. Hana and Uribe gave Nadine Menendez a Mercedes convertible after the senator called a government official about another matter involving an Uribe associate, according to the indictment.

“Congratulations my love of life, we are the proud owners of a 2019 Mercedes,” Nadine Menendez texted her husband, along with a heart emoji.

Hana’s spokesperson said the accusations had “absolutely no basis.”

Messages seeking comment were left with attorneys for Daibes and Uribe.

PREVIOUS UPDATE

It appears to be the first time in U.S. history that a sitting senator has been indicted twice in two unrelated cases, according to the Senate Historical Office.

Menendez has previously been charged with bribery, fraud and conspiracy, accused of accepting lavish gifts to pressure government officials on behalf of a Florida doctor and friend. He was accused of pressuring government officials to resolve a dispute over Medicare billing in favor of Dr. Salomon Melgen, as well as obtaining visas for the doctor’s girlfriends and having helped protect a contract to supply port control equipment to the Dominican Republic.

Menendez has always maintained his innocence. His lawyers said the campaign contributions and gifts — which included private jet trips to a resort in the Dominican Republic and vacations to Paris — were tokens of their longtime friendship and not bribes. wine. Melgen was convicted of health care fraud in 2017, but President Donald Trump commuted his prison sentence.

The jury deadlocked at trial and prosecutors dropped the case. Menendez was reprimanded by the Senate Ethics Committee, but New Jersey voters returned him to the Senate months later. He defeated a well-funded challenger in a midterm election that broke the Republican lock on power in Washington.

Menendez faces re-election next year in a bid to extend his three-decade career in Washington as Democrats hold a slim majority in the Senate.

NEXT STEPS IN THE SENATE

Under Senate Democratic caucus rules, Menendez will have to resign as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee. But neither Menendez nor Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer have said when that would happen. Sen. Ben Cardin, Democrat of Maryland, is expected to replace him as president, as he did between 2015 and 2018 the last time Menendez faced federal charges and a trial.

Given the seriousness of this indictment and the fact that Menendez is accused of using his role on the committee for his personal advantage, Schumer could also ask Menendez to leave the committee altogether. Schumer has not yet commented on the indictment.

Schumer could also call on Menendez to resign from the Senate, but that becomes more complicated as Democrats only have a one-seat majority. Although New Jersey Gov. Phil Murphy would likely appoint a Democrat to replace Menendez, Schumer may not want to create uncertainty about the balance of power.

And even if Schumer called on Menendez to resign, he wouldn’t be forced to. The seat is his until the next election, and Menendez has not yet said whether he will run again. In a statement, Menendez struck a defiant tone: “I am confident that this matter will be successfully resolved once all the facts are presented and my fellow New Jerseyans see this for what it is.” »

NBC Chicago

Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.
Back to top button