Sun. Dec 3rd, 2023

NEW YORK (AP) — U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez of New Jersey and his spouse have been indicted Friday on prices that they took bribes of money, gold bars and a luxurious automobile for a variety of corrupt acts, together with having the Democrat use his affect over overseas affairs to profit the authoritarian authorities of Egypt.

A search of the couple’s house turned up $100,000 in gold bars and $480,000 in hidden money at their house, mentioned prosecutors, who introduced the fees towards the 69-year-old Democrat practically six years after an earlier felony case towards him ended with a deadlocked jury.

The most recent indictment is unrelated to the sooner prices that alleged Menendez accepted lavish presents to stress authorities officers on behalf of a Florida physician.

The Senate Historic Workplace says Menendez seems to be the primary sitting senator in U.S. historical past to have been indicted on two unrelated felony allegations. Menendez faces reelection subsequent yr in a bid to increase his three-decade profession in Washington, and as Democrats maintain a slender majority within the Senate.

A lawyer for Menendez’s spouse hasn’t responded to a message in search of remark. Messages have been left for Menendez’s Senate spokesperson and his political marketing consultant.

The primary time Menendez was indicted, he had been accused of utilizing his political affect to assist a Florida eye physician who had lavished him with presents and marketing campaign contributions.

The brand new prices observe a yearslong investigation that examined, amongst different issues, the dealings of a New Jersey businessman — a good friend of Menendez’s spouse — who secured sole authorization from the Egyptian authorities to certify that meat imported into that nation meets Islamic dietary necessities. Investigators additionally requested questions concerning the Menendez household’s interactions with a New Jersey developer.

Menendez faces re-election subsequent yr in a bid to increase his three-decade profession in Washington, and as Democrats maintain a slender majority within the Senate.

Menendez’s political profession had regarded as if it could be over in 2015, when a federal grand jury in New Jersey indicted him on a number of prices over favors he did for a good friend, Dr. Salomon Melgen.

Menendez was accused of pressuring authorities officers to resolve a Medicare billing dispute in Melgen’s favor, securing visas for the physician’s girlfriends and serving to defend a contract the physician had to supply port-screening tools to the Dominican Republic.

Menendez has at all times maintained his innocence. His attorneys mentioned marketing campaign contributions and presents from Melgen — which included journeys on his non-public jet to a resort within the Dominican Republic and a trip in Paris — have been tokens of their longtime friendship, not bribes.

Prosecutors dropped the case after a jury deadlocked in November 2017 on prices together with bribery, fraud and conspiracy, and a choose dismissed some counts.

The Senate Ethics Committee later rebuked Menendez, discovering that he had improperly accepted presents, didn’t disclose them after which used his affect to advance Melgen’s private pursuits.

However months later, New Jersey voters returned Menendez to the Senate. He defeated a well-financed challenger in a midterm election that broke a Republican lock on energy in Washington.

Melgen was convicted of well being care fraud in 2017 however former President Donald Trump commuted his jail sentence.

Menendez is broadly anticipated to run for reelection subsequent yr.

The son of Cuban immigrants, Menendez has held public workplace constantly since 1986, when he was elected mayor of Union Metropolis, New Jersey. He was a state legislator and spent 14 years within the U.S. Home of Representatives. In 2006, Gov. Jon Corzine appointed Menendez to the Senate seat he vacated when he turned governor.

At the least two different senators — Kay Bailey Hutchinson, R-Texas; Richard Kenney, D-Delaware — have been indicted on a number of events whereas nonetheless in workplace, however every senator’s indictments coated overlapping allegations, in line with the Senate Historic Workplace.

Neither Kenney nor Hutchinson have been finally convicted, and each went on to serve their full phrases. In whole, 13 senators have been indicted all through historical past, of which six have been convicted, in line with the Senate Historic Workplace. Two of these convictions have been overturned.

Menendez first publicly disclosed that he was the topic of a brand new federal investigation final October. Prosecutors declined on the time to remark, however some particulars of their investigation emerged in information experiences and courtroom information.

In 2019, federal brokers seized digital units and information from the places of work of IS EG Halal, a New Jersey firm that had been named by the Egyptian authorities as the only real firm to certify that imported meat met non secular necessities.

The designation stunned U.S. agriculture officers. Beforehand, a number of different firms had been doing that certification, however they have been dismissed by Egyptian agriculture officers in favor of IS EG Halal, which had no earlier expertise within the discipline.

The change occurred the identical yr that Menendez turned engaged to Nadine Arslanian, an acquaintance of the brand new halal certification firm’s proprietor, Wael Hana, of Edgewater, New Jersey.

Information present Arslanian, 56, was battling foreclosures on her Bergen County property in 2018. When she and Menendez bought engaged it started a interval of economic turnaround for Arslanian, a former marketer for a medical firm.

Inside weeks of their engagement, she integrated a enterprise, Strategic Worldwide Enterprise Consultants LLC, in line with state information. Her foreclosures case was dismissed quickly after. The next yr, her belongings included gold bars valued between $100,000 to $250,000, in line with a Senate disclosure type amended by Menendez in March of 2022.

Between April and June of 2022, the couple cashed out at the least a part of their valuable steel holdings, types present, promoting between $200,000 and $400,000 value of gold bars, whereas protecting at the least $250,000 value of them.

An lawyer for Arslanian, David Schertler, didn’t reply to a request for remark about his shopper’s worldwide enterprise work or how she acquired the gold bars.

After information experiences final Could that federal prosecutors have been analyzing whether or not Menendez or his spouse had obtained unreported presents from the enterprise, Hana’s spokesperson denied that any U.S. official had assisted the corporate.

“Neither is there any proof that the contract was awarded primarily based upon bribery or corruption in Egypt or every other purportedly suspicious exercise — and nothing like that has ever even been alleged,” a spokesperson for Hana, Steven Goldberg, mentioned in a latest e-mail to the Related Press.

“Any allegations about automobiles, flats, money, and jewellery being offered by anybody related to IS EG Halal to Senator Menendez or his spouse in any respect, not to mention in change for any type of favorable therapy, are completely with out foundation. Occasions that occurred years in the past are being taken out of context.”

Federal prosecutors final yr interviewed a lawyer near Hana. The lawyer, Antranig “Andy” Aslanian, advised The AP he was requested about Hana and Nadine Arslanian, who he described as a longtime good friend.

“They’re attempting to determine that Menendez helped Hana in Egypt,” Aslanian mentioned. He described such suspicions as “bull,” including that he as soon as accompanied Hana to Egypt and located him to be well-connected with officers.

“He walks into each authorities workplace, all of them knew him,” he mentioned. “Hana didn’t want Menendez in any respect. He’d be extra of a hindrance than a assist.”

U.S. investigators additionally issued at the least one subpoena final spring in search of correspondence from Menendez, his spouse, or an Edgewater developer, Fred Daibes, whose firm owns the constructing the place IS EG Halal has places of work. The subpoena, which was despatched to state Sen. Nicholas Sacco, referenced a state invoice that might have restricted improvement in sure areas alongside the Hudson River, together with the place Daibes owns property.

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