The American Politico on the Menendez scandal: Egypt, weapons and money

The American Politico on the Menendez scandal: Egypt, weapons and money

The case of Bob Menendez, who is accused of bribery, is in the international press after prosecutors released findings from investigations, laying charges.

The Democratic senator is temporarily stepping down as chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee following allegations that he and his wife were bribed by three New Jersey businessmen, Senate Democratic leader Chuck Schumer announced.

Federal prosecutors have charged Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife with violating corruption and bribery laws, according to an indictment unsealed Friday.

The hefty indictment included sweeping charges against the senior Democratic senator involving an Egyptian government bailout scheme, gold bars, money stuffed in envelopes and fraudulent halal certifications.

The 69-year-old Senator spoke of a "campaign of slander" launched against him by those who want to "silence him" and "dig his political grave", thus rejecting the accusations leveled against him today in New York for a corruption case/ donation.

"For years, behind-the-scenes forces have repeatedly tried to silence me and dig my political grave. "Since this investigation was leaked almost a year ago, a smear campaign has been underway from anonymous sources to create the impression of wrongdoing that does not exist," the chairman of the US Senate Foreign Affairs Committee said in a statement, in the context of which he even accuses the prosecutors of "obvious exaggerations" and "false allegations".

"They attacked my wife for long-term friendships she had before we even met," Mr. Menendez said.

“Those behind this campaign simply cannot accept that a humble, first-generation Latino could become a US Senator. Even worse, they see me as an obstacle to their broader political goals," the Democratic politician complains, emphasizing that he himself "has stood firm against dictators from all over the world – Iran, Cuba, Turkey, etc. – fighting against the forces of appeasement and taking a stand on the side of those who defend freedom and democracy”.

Egypt receives about $1.3 billion a year in foreign military funding, but by law, aid installments are contingent on Egypt's progress on human rights concerns, as determined by the State Department.

Traditionally, the State Department has granted requests to delay grants and arms sales by the president or the highest-ranking member of the Senate committee.

Menendez, who has been on the Foreign Relations Committee since 2018, has been a frequent critic of the Egyptian government, criticizing the Trump administration for inviting Egyptian President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for an official visit in 2019 and pushing then-Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to publicly express human rights concerns.

But federal prosecutors allege Menendez played a different role behind the scenes.

According to allegations, Menendez, as of mid-2018, privately maintained close relations with Egyptian officials and businessmen and shared sensitive information with associates about US policy toward Cairo.

In May 2018, Menendez reportedly revealed to Wael Hanna at a private dinner that the US government's ban on small arms and ammunition sales to Egypt had been lifted, which Hanna relayed to the Egyptian official.

Later that month, Menendez reportedly asked other US senators for their support in releasing $300 million in US aid to Egypt.

In July, after meeting with Egyptian military officials, Menendez reportedly asked his wife Nadine to tell Hanna that he was signing off on the $99 million sale of 46,000 120mm target practice rounds and 10,000 rounds of tank ammunition.

"NOTE: These tank missiles are for tanks they have had for many years. They are using them in the Sinai for the counter-terrorist campaign," Menendez reportedly said in a message to Nadine, which he forwarded to Hanna.

The State Department two months later announced it had approved the sale of General Dynamics' package of high-explosive, armor-piercing missiles to help Cairo fight Islamic State militants, and target missiles to train M1 tank crews. Abrams.

Building the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam has long been a top foreign priority for Egypt, as Cairo depends on the uninterrupted flow of water from the Nile to sustain its population, which is almost entirely concentrated along the delta and banks of the river.

The cases

Menendez was being investigated by Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) investigators for accepting bribes from Fred Dibes, a real estate mogul and former bank executive on trial for banking crimes, in exchange for using his connections at the Ministry of Justice.

Menendez allegedly accepted the bribes in the form of gold bars, cash and lavish gifts through his wife Nadine Arslanian.

Moreover, among the investigations against the senator, it was also recorded that he received bribes in exchange for the Egypt-based start-up 'IS EG Halal' to win the tender, which was undertaking halal certification across the US, despite the fact that he had no experience in the field.

While many companies' contracts were suddenly canceled in 2019, IS EG's special contract with Egypt to certify halal meat worldwide raised suspicions.

Public discussion of the contest revealed that the owners of "IS EG" and Menendez's wife were friends, while the fact that Menendez was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which approves millions in military aid to Egypt each year, played a role decisive role in awarding the contract.

In 2015, the US senator was also accused of accepting gifts worth more than $600,000 from Florida ophthalmologist Salomon Melgen, including a private jet trip and a three-day stay at a 5-star hotel in Paris.

While the trial on the 2015 charge was ongoing, prosecutors dropped the case in November 2017 after jurors deadlocked on the bribery, fraud and conspiracy charges, and the judge dismissed some of the charges.

However, in April 2018, the United States Senate Ethics Committee "severely reprimanded" Menendez in a letter, writing:

"The Commission found that over a six-year period you knowingly and repeatedly accepted gifts of substantial value from Dr. Melgen without obtaining required Commission approval and that you failed to publicly disclose certain gifts as required by Senate Rule and federal law. Furthermore, while accepting these gifts, you used your position as a member of the Senate to further the personal and business interests of Dr. Melgen. The Committee found that this conduct violated Senate Rules, federal law, and applicable standards of conduct. Accordingly, the Commission issues you this Public Letter of Reprimand and also orders you to return the fair market value of all impermissible gifts not already returned.”

Article in Greek


Read More