Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey pleaded not guilty to bribery charges in federal court in Manhattan. The charges include a conspiracy involving weapons sales and aid to the government of Egypt. According to prosecutors, the senator and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars, gold bullion, and a Mercedes-Benz convertible as bribes from three New Jersey businessmen involved in the corruption scheme. Senator Menendez is also accused of attempting to influence criminal investigations in New Jersey by strong-arming prosecutors. The indictment unsealed last week details a web of corruption that has shocked and disturbed many, including Senator Cory Booker of New Jersey.
One of the businessmen involved in the scheme, Wael Hana, was arrested after voluntarily flying to the United States from Egypt and pleaded not guilty. The other two businessmen, Fred Daibes and Jose Uribe, also pleaded not guilty to the bribery charges. The conspiracy alleged by prosecutors was extensive and had far-reaching implications, benefiting Mr. Hana’s halal meat business, which eventually won a contract to be the sole entity worldwide permitted by Egypt to certify imported food products prepared according to Islamic law. The indictment reveals text messages between Senator Menendez’s wife and the senator discussing the potential success of the scheme. The charges brought against Senator Menendez have sparked calls for him to resign from top Democrats, but he remains confident in his eventual exoneration.
The investigation into Senator Menendez and the subsequent charges were the result of a lengthy investigation led by the FBI and prosecutors from the Southern District of New York. The charges stem from activities that happened both in New Jersey and Manhattan, showing the jurisdiction’s involvement in the case. The U.S. attorney for the Southern District emphasized their commitment to rooting out corruption without any consideration for partisan politics. This is not the first time Senator Menendez has faced corruption charges, as he was previously charged in 2015 but was not convicted after a trial ended with a hung jury. Prosecutors allege that the corruption scheme outlined in the current indictment began shortly after the previous trial concluded.