14 May 2024, 09:26

Trial begins of US senator accused of bribery, extortion

NEW YORK, May 14, 2024 (BSS/AFP) - Jury selection began on Monday in the
trial of a powerful US senator charged with corruption after gold bars and
hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash were found at his home.

Senator Robert Menendez, a 70-year-old Democrat from New Jersey, and his wife
Nadine are accused of extortion, obstruction of justice and accepting bribes
to perform favors for businessmen with connections to Egypt and Qatar.

Menendez, the former chairman of the influential Senate Foreign Relations
Committee, is on trial in a federal court in Manhattan with two of the
businessmen -- Egyptian-American Wael Hana and Fred Daibes, a real estate

A third businessman, insurance broker Jose Uribe, pleaded guilty to bribery
charges in March and has been assisting investigators.

Nadine Menendez, 57, is to be tried separately in July.

Jury selection will carry into a second day Tuesday, with the trial expected
to last between five to six weeks, according to the judge overseeing the

The most serious charges would carry up to 20 years in prison upon

In the Egypt-related case, Menendez is accused of accepting bribes to use his
power and influence to enrich his co-conspirators and benefit the government
of Egypt.

Menendez, who has rejected calls for his resignation, allegedly helped Hana
protect his monopoly on US exports of halal food products to Egypt.

The senator is also accused of helping funnel US military assistance to the
government in Cairo.

In the Qatar case, Menendez allegedly received bribes to assist Daibes, who
was seeking millions of dollars in investment from a fund with ties to the
oil-rich state.

In a raid on Menendez's New Jersey home, FBI agents allegedly found nearly
$500,000 in cash hidden around the house.

Gold bars worth around $150,000 and a luxury Mercedes-Benz convertible,
gifted by one of the businessmen, were also recovered.

Menendez has pleaded not guilty and said he kept the large sum of money at
his house out of habit, due to the history of confiscation his family faced
in Cuba.

A senator since 2006 and before that a member of the House of Representatives
for 14 years, Menendez has been a Democratic stalwart in Congress for three

Menendez, whose parents emigrated to the United States from Cuba, was
indicted on bribery and corruption charges in 2015, but that case ended in a
mistrial in 2017.

Menendez is up for reelection in November. A number of fellow Democrats,
including New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy, have urged him to step aside, but
Menendez has suggested that he might run as an independent.

Democrats head into the November election with a narrow 51-49 majority in the

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