Robert Menendez’s Trial Is Set to Begin, With a Sprawling Web of Charges

Robert Menendez’s Trial Is Set to Begin, With a Sprawling Web of Charges

Jury choice for Senator Robert Menendez’s corruption trial begins on Monday in a federal courthouse in Manhattan, a 20-mile drive from Mr. Menendez’s residence in northern New Jersey, the place for many years he has been a well known Democratic political chief.

His efforts to maneuver the trial to his residence turf failed. Jurors picked to determine the case will likely be from Manhattan, the Bronx or considered one of a number of New York counties north of the town.

Prosecutors with the U.S. lawyer’s workplace for the Southern District of New York have stated that they count on to take a minimum of 4 weeks to current their case towards Mr. Menendez, who’s accused of being on the middle of a global bribery scheme involving greater than $100,000 in gold bullion, an Egyptian halal meat monopoly and a Qatari sheikh.

Mr. Menendez, 70, will likely be tried with two New Jersey businessmen, Fred Daibes and Wael Hana.

His spouse, Nadine Menendez, 57, was additionally charged within the bribery scheme however will likely be tried individually, in July. A judge granted her request for a delay after her legal professionals stated she had a critical medical situation that required immediate remedy and, presumably, a prolonged restoration.

His legal professionals have indicated that his protection, a minimum of partially, will likely be responsible Ms. Menendez, his spouse of lower than 4 years. If he chooses to testify, Mr. Menendez could be more than likely to stipulate “the methods by which she withheld data” and “led him to imagine that nothing illegal was happening,” his legal professionals stated in courtroom papers.

A key authorities witness within the trial may very well be Jose Uribe, one other businessman who was charged with Mr. Menendez however who has pleaded responsible and is cooperating with prosecutors. At his responsible plea in March, Mr. Uribe admitted that he gave Ms. Menendez a $60,000 Mercedes-Benz convertible “in return for influencing a United States senator to cease a felony investigation.”

The case has proceeded comparatively shortly to trial ever because the senator and his spouse had been first charged in September 2023 with conspiring to commerce Mr. Menendez’s “affect and energy” for an array of bribes, together with the posh automobile, residence mortgage funds, gold bullion and a whole bunch of hundreds of {dollars} in money.

Here are the central claims outlined by prosecutors, who will likely be making an attempt to show, past an affordable doubt, that Mr. Menendez, Mr. Daibes and Mr. Hana participated in a sprawling bribery conspiracy that lasted almost 5 years:

Mr. Menendez is charged with utilizing his “affect and energy” as a senator in ways in which benefited each the federal government of Egypt and Mr. Hana, an American citizen who emigrated from Egypt and was making an attempt to get a halal meat certification firm off the bottom in New Jersey.

For instance, after assembly with Mr. Hana in May 2018, prosecutors say, Mr. Menendez obtained nonpublic data from the State Department in regards to the quantity and nationality of staff on the U.S. embassy in Cairo. The data was relayed to an Egyptian official by Ms. Menendez and Mr. Hana. Prosecutors famous that the data was not categorized however was thought-about extremely delicate and will pose “important operational safety considerations” if disclosed.

Mr. Menendez, a former chief of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, can be accused of steering weapons and support to Egypt in trade for bribes. In May 2018, he secretly helped to put in writing and edit a letter from Egyptian officers who had been lobbying different U.S. senators to launch $300 million in extra support, in keeping with the indictment.

Prosecutors additionally described an effort by Mr. Hana to enlist Mr. Menendez’s assist in smoothing over a U.S.-Egyptian dispute throughout this era. After an American vacationer was significantly injured in a mistaken 2015 Egyptian army assault, some members of Congress balked at awarding sure army support to Egypt, in keeping with the indictment.

In May 2019, prosecutors stated an Egyptian official despatched a message to Mr. Hana, in Arabic, saying that if Mr. Menendez helped to resolve the matter, “he’ll sit very comfortably.”

“Orders, contemplate it accomplished,” Mr. Hana replied, in keeping with the indictment.

A yr later, after a gathering with an Egyptian normal, Mr. Menendez additionally urged the State Department to take a extra lively function in a dispute over a hydroelectric dam Ethiopia was constructing on the Nile River, prosecutors stated. Egypt was against the dam and feared it might reduce into the nation’s water provide.

To assist Mr. Hana’s enterprise, IS EG Halal, Mr. Menendez pressured a high-level Department of Agriculture official, prosecutors declare. The official had objected to Egypt’s plan to make Mr. Hana’s firm the only entity approved to certify that meat imported to the nation from the United States had been ready in keeping with Islamic legislation. (Until then, a minimum of 4 U.S. firms had divided the work, and the sudden shift prompted costs to skyrocket.)

According to the indictment, Mr. Menendez referred to as the official to demand that the usD.A. “cease interfering with IS EG Halal’s monopoly.”

The official refused, however the enterprise association, which the United States had no energy to dam, remained in place, enabling IS EG Halal to thrive. The firm grew to become a conduit for “the bribes being paid” to Mr. Menendez by his spouse, in keeping with the indictment.

Prosecutors have stated that each one of this justified a extremely uncommon felony cost: that Mr. Menendez acted as a international agent, and that his spouse and their co-defendants conspired to place him into that function.

Mr. Menendez can be charged with making an attempt to make use of his clout to quash felony circumstances in New Jersey — two involving associates of Mr. Uribe and one towards Mr. Daibes, an actual property developer and longtime pal of the senator who had donated to his campaigns.

Mr. Uribe had been implicated in an insurance coverage fraud investigation by the New Jersey lawyer normal’s workplace that concerned two of his associates, in keeping with the indictment. “The deal is to kill and cease all investigation,” Mr. Uribe wrote to Mr. Hana in April 2018.

Mr. Menendez referred to as after which met in September 2019 with officers from the lawyer normal’s workplace in an effort to scuttle the inquiry, in keeping with the indictment. In trade, Mr. Uribe advised a judge at his current responsible plea, he had supplied the Mercedes-Benz to Ms. Menendez in April 2019 and organized to cowl its month-to-month funds.

Mr. Uribe additionally admitted in courtroom that he and Ms. Menendez tried to cowl up the scheme by making an attempt to make it seem that the automobile funds had been loans, not bribes. A couple of days after Mr. Uribe’s responsible plea, Ms. Menendez and the senator had been moreover charged with obstruction of justice.

Mr. Daibes is accused of giving Mr. Menendez and his spouse bribes of furnishings, gold bars and money.

Investigators discovered 11 gold bars linked to Mr. Daibes throughout a June 16, 2022, search of the couple’s residence. Mr. Daibes’s fingerprints or DNA had been additionally discovered on 10 envelopes, containing greater than $80,000, in the course of the search, in keeping with a courtroom submitting.

Less than three months earlier than the search, Ms. Menendez bought two one-kilogram bars of gold that had been traced to Mr. Daibes and price about $120,000, prosecutors have additionally stated.

The funds had been supplied, partially, in trade for the senator’s efforts to resolve federal financial institution fraud costs that Mr. Daibes faces in New Jersey, in keeping with the indictment.

Mr. Daibes was charged in October 2018 with acquiring loans beneath false pretenses from a financial institution he had based years earlier, Mariner’s.

Prosecutors have stated that Mr. Menendez tried to have a U.S. lawyer for New Jersey put in who could be prepared to go straightforward on Mr. Daibes. That effort failed, however Mr. Menendez twice referred to as the federal prosecutor accountable for overseeing Mr. Daibes’s case, in keeping with the indictment.

Mr. Daibes ultimately pleaded responsible to one of many 2018 indictment’s 14 felony counts in an settlement that required no jail time.

Last yr, nevertheless, after Mr. Daibes was charged within the senator’s corruption case, a federal judge in New Jersey rejected the plea, which he then withdrew. The financial institution fraud costs are nonetheless pending.

All of this was occurring as Mr. Daibes was getting ready to construct a high-rise residence complicated alongside the Hudson River in Edgewater, N.J.

A Chinese firm that had been bankrolling the undertaking had pulled out due to delays tied to an environmental cleanup of the parcel, a Superfund web site. Interest charges amongst standard lenders had been climbing, and Mr. Daibes was now accused of financial institution fraud.

It was Mr. Menendez who helped craft an answer by introducing Mr. Daibes in June 2021 to an investor who was a member of the Qatari royal household, in keeping with the indictment.

Then, as Mr. Daibes was negotiating with the would-be investor, Mr. Menendez issued a minimum of one assertion, on Aug. 20, 2021, supportive of Qatar, prosecutors stated. (A information launch the senator issued that day praised “mates and allies in Qatar” as “ethical exemplars” for accepting Afghan refugees.)

Mr. Menendez’s feedback got here at a time when the oil-rich Gulf state was working to restore its picture earlier than internet hosting the 2022 World Cup.

In January 2023, Heritage Advisors, a agency based by a Qatari sheikh, finalized a $45 million shared possession settlement for the Edgewater undertaking with an organization managed by Mr. Daibes, New Jersey property data present.

Mr. Daibes gave Mr. Menendez “a minimum of one gold bar” after a draft of the true property deal was firmed up, prosecutors stated.

Mr. Menendez’s legal professionals have stated the allegations associated to Qatar are baseless.

In a authorized submitting, they’ve argued that prosecutors ignored statements by the funding firm’s chief working officer that indicated the partnership had nothing to do with the senator’s assist.

An official with the Qatari funding agency advised prosecutors in December 2023 that the corporate thought-about the high-rise complicated a “trophy undertaking” as a result of it confronted the Manhattan skyline. The traders additionally stated that they had been in a position to negotiate favorable phrases as a result of Mr. Daibes was “unbankable,” leaving him few lending choices, in keeping with a submitting final month by Avi Weitzman, considered one of Mr. Menendez’s legal professionals.

“The resolution to spend money on the Edgewater growth undertaking,” Mr. Weitzman wrote, “had nothing to do with Senator Menendez or the federal government of Qatar.”


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