NEW YORK: US senator Robert Menendez, a Democrat from New Jersey, and his wife have been charged with bribery offences in connection with their relationship with three New Jersey businessmen, federal prosecutors said on Friday.
The US Attorney’s office in Manhattan accused the defendants of accepting thousands of dollars of bribes in exchange for using Menendez’s power and influence as a senator to seek to protect and enrich the businessmen, and benefit the government of Egypt.
Prosecutors said the bribes included cash, gold, payments toward a home mortgage, compensation for a job with minimal requirements, a luxury vehicle and other things of value.
Menendez and his wife Nadine Menendez face three criminal counts each. The senator’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Menendez, the chair of the influential US Senate committee on foreign relations, had previously been charged in New Jersey with accepting private flights, campaign contributions and other bribes from a wealthy patron in exchange for official favours, but a 2017 trial ended in a jury deadlock.
He has been in the Senate since 2006.
Menendez and his wife face three criminal counts each: conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under colour of official right.
Prosecutors are seeking to have Menendez forfeit assets including his New Jersey home, a 2019 Mercedes-Benz, and about US$566,000 in cash, gold bars, and funds from a bank account.
The businessmen — Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes — were also charged in the scheme.
Prosecutors said Hana, who is originally from Egypt, arranged dinners and meetings between Menendez and Egyptian officials in 2018 at which the officials pressed Menendez on the status of US military aid. In exchange, Hana put Nadine Menendez on his company’s payroll, prosecutors said.
Egypt at the time was one of the largest recipients of US military aid, but the state department had withheld US$195 million in 2017 and cancelled an additional US$65.7 million until the country could demonstrate improvements on human rights and democracy.
Menendez at a meeting in 2018 told Hana non-public information about the status of the aid, prosecutors said.
Hana then texted an Egyptian official, “The ban on small arms and ammunition to Egypt has been lifted,” according to an indictment made public on Friday.