A federal grand jury indictment has indicted U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez on bribery and corruption charges that link the Democratic chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and his wife to several alleged dealings with New Jersey businessmen.
The indictment unsealed Sept. 22 in U.S. District Court in Manhattan also names the senator's wife, Nadine Menendez, New Jersey real estate developer Fred Daibes and associates Wael Hana and Jose Uribe.
Prosecutors allege the couple had a “corrupt relationship” with their partners in New Jersey and accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from at least 2018 to about 2022 in exchange for a variety of alleged schemes, including secretly passing sensitive government information to Egypt and influencing criminal investigations.
According to the indictment, authorities seized $100,000 worth of gold bars and more than $480,000 in cash, most of which was stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets and a safe at their home and bank.
During the same court-authorized search of their home, federal agents also discovered furnishings allegedly provided by Mr. Hana and Mr. Daibes and a “luxury vehicle” paid for by Mr. Uribe parked in the garage, according to the indictment.
The indictment alleges that Ms. Menendez and Mr. Hana attempted to introduce Egyptian intelligence and military officials to the senator in order to “conclude and consolidate a corrupt agreement,” receiving bribes amounting to $1,000 with the help of Mr. Daibes and Mr. Uribe Thousands of dollars in exchange for Mr. Menendez's dereliction of duty on behalf of the Egyptian government – including financial support for its military.
Senator Menendez and his wife are charged with three counts: conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit official fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under the guise of official rights.
Mr. Daibes, Mr. Hana and Mr. Uribe are charged with the first two of these counts.
The indictment is the result of a lengthy investigation, some six years after a trial on various corruption charges resulted in a jury verdict.
While the senator's website explicitly states that he cannot interfere in investigations or otherwise improperly use his influence as a powerful elected official, “we contend that Senator Menendez did these things behind the scenes for certain people – the People who bribed him and his wife,” U.S. Attorney Damian Williams of the Southern District of New York said during a press conference announcing the charges.
During the period of the alleged scheme, the United States provided approximately $1 billion per year to the Egyptian military through grants and in the form of direct sales of military equipment, with the White House required to notify Congress, according to the indictment.
The State Department would typically wait to transfer such funding until the approval of the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – which Mr. Menendez chairs and thus has “significant influence on foreign military sales and foreign military financing to Egypt.” had,” according to the statement to prosecutors.
In the years leading up to the alleged plan, State Department officials and members of Congress raised significant concerns about human rights and anti-democratic threats in Egypt, resulting in the cancellation of tens of millions of dollars in military aid and no sale of offensive weapons to foreign forces Egypt, which requires congressional notification, has been completed since approximately March 2016,” the indictment states.
As part of the alleged agreement, the senator allegedly “improperly advised and pressured” a U.S. agriculture official to maintain a contract for Mr. Hana as the exclusive supplier of halal meat to Egypt, the indictment says.
Mr. Menendez also attempted to interfere in a criminal investigation related to Mr. Uribe's trucking business, which is being closely examined by the New Jersey Attorney General's Office, the indictment says.
Mr. Uribe then arranged to sell a Mercedes-Benz convertible after handing her $15,000 in cash in a parking lot, the indictment says. She then allegedly used $15,000 for a down payment and lied on an application to secure loan financing. Mr. Uribe later arranged monthly financing payments that were routed through his partners or a company he controlled, the indictment says.
In Mr. Daibes' case, the senator allegedly agreed to interfere in a pending federal case involving his co-defendant in exchange for cash, furniture and gold bullion – and also recommended the presidential nomination of a candidate for U.S. attorney in New Jersey The senator believed he could exert influence.
Once, after returning from Egypt, the senator is said to have searched the Internet for “how much is a kilo of gold worth,” according to the indictment.
Mr. Menendez, who was first appointed and then elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, served as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee from 2013 to 2015 and again since 2021, holding Democratic control of the upper chamber of Congress.
He is seeking a fourth term in the Senate. If he resigns after the indictment, New Jersey's Democratic Gov. Phil Murphy would appoint a successor to serve the remainder of his term.
The primary election is scheduled for June 4, 2024.
“It is time for Senator Menendez to resign,” former prosecutor and president of the Washington government watchdog group Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics, Noah Bookbinder, said in a statement. “The conduct and evidence presented in today’s indictment are even more damning. The people of New Jersey shouldn’t have to constantly wonder whether one of their senators is acting for them or lining their pockets.”
The Independent has reached out to Mr. Menendez's representatives for comment.