Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey and his wife, Nadine, both pleaded not guilty to bribery charges in Manhattan federal court. The charges stem from a yearslong corruption scheme involving weapons sales and aid to the government of Egypt. Prosecutors allege that the couple accepted bribes in the form of hundreds of thousands of dollars, gold bullion, and a Mercedes-Benz convertible from three New Jersey businessmen involved in the conspiracy. The indictment also describes Senator Menendez’s attempts to influence criminal investigations in New Jersey. Despite calls from top Democrats, including Governor Philip D. Murphy and Senator Cory Booker, to step down, Menendez has maintained his innocence and declined to resign.
One of the businessmen charged, Wael Hana, an American citizen born in Egypt, was arrested at Kennedy International Airport after voluntarily returning to the United States from Egypt. The other two businessmen, Fred Daibes and Jose Uribe, also pleaded not guilty. The bribery conspiracy outlined by prosecutors is extensive and has been described as shocking and disturbing by Senator Cory Booker. The scheme involved payments to Menendez in exchange for his efforts to direct federal aid and weapons sales to Egypt, ultimately benefiting Hana’s halal meat business. The indictment also alleges that Menendez attempted to silence a high-level U.S. Department of Agriculture official who objected to the monopoly created by Hana’s company.
During a search of the Menendezes’ home and a safe deposit box, investigators discovered $550,000 in cash, 13 bars of gold bullion, and the Mercedes-Benz. The charges resulted from a lengthy investigation led by the FBI and the Southern District of New York. While much of the alleged activity occurred in New Jersey, some aspects of the conspiracy, such as a dinner meeting and gold sales, took place within the Southern District’s jurisdiction. U.S. Attorney Damian Williams emphasized his commitment to rooting out corruption regardless of partisan politics. This is not the first time Menendez faced corruption charges, as he was previously charged in 2015 but was not retried after a judge dismissed the most serious charges in 2018.