Sen. Menendez Faces More Charges Alleging Bribe-Taking in Qatari Deal

January 3, 2024 by Tom Ramstack
Sen. Menendez Faces More Charges Alleging Bribe-Taking in Qatari Deal
Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., departs the Senate floor in the Capitol, Sept. 28, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)

NEW YORK — More bribery allegations were lodged Tuesday against Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., as he faces criminal prosecution on charges of using his political influence with the Egyptians and Qataris to help his personal finances.

The superseding indictment the Justice Department unveiled Tuesday says Menendez brokered a multimillion-dollar deal between a New Jersey real estate developer and the Qatari government while he was chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

In exchange, the New Jersey Democrat was paid off in gold, cash and other gifts, prosecutors say. He did not report the payments as income for tax purposes or on disclosure forms required by the Senate.

The indictment does not add charges against the nearly 31-year member of Congress. It gives more detail to explain why the Justice Department is prosecuting him.

Menendez and his wife, Nadine, have pleaded not guilty to the charges. He has refused to resign from the Senate.

Menendez headed the Senate Foreign Relations Committee until he was compelled to resign in September after being charged in U.S. District Court in New York City. His trial is scheduled to begin May 6.

Some of the evidence against him came from a raid of his home by federal agents in June 2022. They found gold bars, home furnishings, a luxury car and $480,000 in cash hidden in clothing, closets and a safe.

It was traced to payments for using his influence to help the government of Egypt and its businessmen. Some of the cash was hidden inside a jacket that had Menendez’s name on it and the insignia of the U.S. Senate.

Shortly before he was arrested, Menendez was accused of ghostwriting a letter to fellow senators asking them to lift a hold on $300 million in U.S. aid to Egypt.

While previous indictments implicated improprieties with the Egyptians, the indictment Tuesday was focused on the Qataris.

It says Menendez introduced New Jersey real estate developer Fred Daibes to a member of Qatar’s royal family who also was a principal in an investment firm. The Qatari company then negotiated with Daibes about a multimillion-dollar investment in one of his development projects.

Shortly afterward, Menendez made public statements favorable toward the government of Qatar, prosecutors said. He also attended a private event hosted by the Qatari government in Manhattan.

A day after he returned from a trip to Qatar and Egypt in October 2021, Menendez allegedly searched the internet using the phrase “how much is one kilo of gold worth?” the indictment says.

In January 2022, Menendez messaged a Qatari investor who was preparing to meet with Daibes in London, the indictment says. He told the Qatari investor that he hoped the meeting would result in a “favorable and mutually beneficial agreement that you have both been engaged in discussing,” according to prosecutors.

Four months later, the Qatari investment firm signed a letter of intent to participate in a joint venture with a company controlled by Daibes, the indictment says. The Qatari investment in the joint venture was estimated to be in the tens of millions of dollars when it was finalized last year.

About the same time, Menendez again searched the internet to research the price of one kilogram of gold, prosecutors said. One kilogram of gold was selling this week for about $67,000.

The 11 gold bars federal agents found in his home bore serial numbers that were traced to Daibes.

Menendez says allegations against him are based on inferences by prosecutors but that they lack evidence of criminal wrongdoing.

His attorney, Adam Fee, said in a statement, “What they have instead is a string of baseless assumptions and bizarre conjectures based on routine, lawful contacts between a senator and his constituents or foreign officials. They are turning this into a persecution, not a prosecution.”

He described Menendez’s contacts with the Egyptians and Qataris as a routine part of his job on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

Daibes was arrested in September on federal charges that he paid bribes to Menendez, who is a longtime friend of his. Daibes has pleaded not guilty and is awaiting trial. 

The indictments this year follow similar criminal charges against Menendez in 2015. He was accused of using his influence in the Senate to help the business interests of a Florida ophthalmologist who was a major donor to his election campaigns.

The trial in federal court in New Jersey ended with the judge declaring a mistrial after the jury was unable to agree on a verdict.

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