Tried for corruption | Senator Robert Menendez accused of monetizing his power

(New York) Tried in New York for corruption, Democratic Senator Robert Menendez, an old hand in American politics who risks 20 years in prison, was accused on Wednesday of having monetized his power and influence to enrich himself with his wife .


Published at 10:15 p.m.

After three days of selection, the 12 jurors will attend the federal criminal trial targeting the now former chairman of the powerful Senate Foreign Affairs Committee for five to seven weeks.

Pursued since September with his wife Nadine Menendez and three alleged accomplices, this hawk of the right wing of the Democratic Party in terms of diplomacy, is targeted by around twenty charges.

He is accused of corruption, influence peddling for the benefit of Egypt and Qatar, as well as acting as an agent of a foreign government.

“He was powerful. He was also corrupt,” thundered prosecutor Lara Pomerantz at the opening of the debates, estimating that the senator had “sold his power” and his influence to receive hundreds of thousands of dollars.

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ILLUSTRATION ELIZABETH WILLIAMS, ASSOCIATED PRESS

Robert Menendez and his lawyer Avi Weitzman

His lawyer Avi Weitzman assured, on the contrary, that he had “never received bribes” and even pointed the finger at Mme Menendez and his “financial problems”.

The latter, 57 years old, will be tried in July for health reasons.

The couple is accused of having accepted “hundreds of thousands of dollars” in bribes, in cash or gold bars, between 2018 and 2022. This in exchange for his influence to support Cairo and “protect and enrich” three businessmen from his state of New Jersey where 9 million inhabitants live, including a large Middle Eastern diaspora.

Federal prosecutor Damian Williams had detailed the discovery, during a search of the couple’s home in June 2022, of “wads of notes stuffed in the pockets” of a jacket, i.e. US$480,000 in cash, 13 “bullion bars” ‘gold’, a Mercedes-Benz convertible, a diamond ring and furniture.

Bob Menendez, who pleads not guilty, has remained deaf to calls to resign from the Democratic Party. This child of Cuban parents who emigrated to the United States, however, no longer chairs the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee.

Appearing alongside him are businessmen Wael Hana and Fred Daibes who also plead not guilty. A third man, José Uribe, pleaded guilty to part of the prosecution and is collaborating with the courts.

Very rare for a senator, Mr. Menendez had already been tried for corruption in 2015, but his trial was canceled in 2017, due to lack of a unanimous verdict from the jurors. And in 2018, the Justice Department – ​​under the presidency of Republican Donald Trump – asked a judge to drop all charges against him.

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