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Business News/ News / World/  Bob Menendez Sold His Office for Cash, Gold Bars, US Tells Jury
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Bob Menendez Sold His Office for Cash, Gold Bars, US Tells Jury

Senator Bob Menendez’s bribery trial began Wednesday with a US prosecutor telling jurors that the New Jersey Democrat took cash, gold bars and a luxury car from two businessmen to perform favors for them and corruptly help the Egyptian government.

Bob Menendez Sold His Office for Cash, Gold Bars, US Tells JuryPremium
Bob Menendez Sold His Office for Cash, Gold Bars, US Tells Jury

Senator Bob Menendez’s bribery trial began Wednesday with a US prosecutor telling jurors that the New Jersey Democrat took cash, gold bars and a luxury car from two businessmen to perform favors for them and corruptly help the Egyptian government.

Menendez, the former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is also accused of illegally helping the government of Qatar and acting as an agent of Egypt.

“This was not politics as usual," Assistant US Attorney Lara Pomerantz told jurors in New York federal court. “This was politics for profit. Robert Menendez was a United States senator on the take, motivated by greed, focused on how much money he could put in his pocket and in his wife’s pocket."

Menendez, a three-term senator, lost his political support in the Senate and New Jersey after prosecutors displayed photographs of the gold bars and $480,000 in cash seized at his home in 2022. 

‘Outrageously False’

In his opening statement, Menendez attorney Avi Weitzman said the senator took no bribes. Menendez “did not accept cash or gold or a car in exchange" for corrupt actions, his lawyer said. “He’s an American patriot. He’s not an agent for the Egyptian government. ‘’

Claims that Menendez “sold his office" are “outrageously false," Weitzman said. “He did not ask for bribes, and he did not receive bribes."

Weitzman said prosecutors overplayed the role of cash and gold in the case.

“Smells a bit fishy, you might thinking to yourself," Weitzman said. “You’ll see there are innocent explanations for the gold and the cash."

Also on trial are two businessmen, developer Fred Daibes and Egyptian-American Wael Hana. Menendez’s wife, Nadine, is also charged, but has an undisclosed illness and will be tried in July. Menendez has suggested in court filings that if he testifies, he’ll blame his wife for withholding information about gifts she received. 

Menendez, 70, faced another corruption trial in 2017, but a federal judge in New Jersey declared a mistrial and prosecutors dropped the case.

Pomerantz said Menendez gave Egyptian officials “sensitive" non-public information about personnel at the US embassy in Cairo and helped Egypt obtain hundreds of millions of dollars in military aid.

‘Failed Businessman’

Nadine Menendez, who began dating the senator in 2018, joined Hana in trying to help Egyptian officials influence the senator, Pomerantz said. Hana, she said, was a “failed businessman" but saw a way out. 

“When Hana learned Nadine was dating a US senator, he saw an opportunity," the prosecutor said. Over several years, Menendez met “again and again" with Egyptian officials in meetings arranged by Hana and Nadine Menendez, Pomerantz said.

Hana is accused of bribing Menendez so that the senator would help protect the monopoly he secured from Egypt to certify US food exports as compliant with halal standards.

Daibes also faces federal bank fraud charges in New Jersey that figure into the Menendez trial. Pomerantz said Daibes bribed Menendez with cash and gold bars for the senator’s influence in the New Jersey case.

Menendez was “being bribed by Daibes to disrupt a criminal prosecution," Pomerantz said. Daibes was giving gold bars worth more than $50,000, the prosecutor said.

During this time, Menendez repeatedly searched the Internet for the price of a gold bar, Pomerantz said. 

When FBI agents raided Menendez’s house, they found $480,000 in cash stuffed in envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets and a safe. Some envelopes bore the fingerprints and DNA of Daibes and his driver, Pomerantz said. 

Qatari Investment 

In June 2021, Daibes sought funding for a real estate project when Menendez introduced him to a Qatari royal family member who was the principal of a Qatari investment company, the US alleges. The Qatari firm entered a joint venture with a Daibes company and agreed to put tens of millions of dollars into the project, the US says. 

Menendez has offered varying explanations for the cash. His lawyers have said the cash reflected “decades of documented withdrawals by the senator from his own bank account."

But US District Judge Sidney Stein, who’s overseeing the case, denied a Menendez request to present evidence that the senator kept cash because of the “trauma" stemming from his parents fleeing Cuba after having their funds confiscated by the Cuban government.

Menendez’s lawyer offered that a psychiatrist could also testify about the senator’s trauma “when his father, a compulsive gambler, died by suicide after Senator Menendez eventually decided to discontinue paying off his father’s gambling debts." Prosecutors opposed the request.

The case is US v. Menendez, 23-cr-490, US District Court, Southern District of New York .

This article was generated from an automated news agency feed without modifications to text.

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Published: 16 May 2024, 01:27 AM IST
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