According to the Justice Department, New Jersey Democratic Senator Robert Menendez has been accused for allegedly taking bribes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars.
Prosecutors allege that Mr. Menendez and his wife accepted gold bars and cash envelopes from New Jersey businesspeople.
Prosecutors claim that the senator and his wife accepted the money in order to discreetly assist the Egyptian government.
Mr. and Mrs. Menendez have both angrily disputed the claims.
The two are charged with three charges of conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right.
The indictment follows a lengthy Justice Department investigation.
Prosecutors allege that Mr Menendez and his wife Nadine collected bribes in the form of cash, gold, mortgage payments, and a luxury vehicle from three New Jersey men: Wael Hana, Jose Uribe, and Fred Daibes.
According to the allegation, they took the payments not just to assist the Egyptian government, but also to utilize Mr Menendez’s authority as a senator to protect the three businesses.
Mr. Menendez, 69, is the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and was re-elected to the Senate for a third term in 2018.
According to the 39-page indictment, his “leadership position on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee (the “SFRC”), first as the Ranking Member and then as the Chairman” permitted him to peddle influence in these areas.
Mrs Menendez denied any misconduct and stated that she will defend herself in court, according to her lawyers.
Mr. Menendez also disputed the charges, claiming that they were politically motivated.
“For years, forces behind the scenes have attempted repeatedly to silence my voice and dig my political grave,” he stated in a long statement. “Since this investigation was leaked nearly a year ago, there has been an active smear campaign involving anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.”
“I am confident that this matter will be resolved successfully once all of the facts are presented and my fellow New Jerseyans see it for what it is,” he continued.
Federal officials issued search warrants at Mr Menendez’s house in the summer of 2022 and discovered evidence of the bribery deals, including approximately $480,000 (£391,000) in cash, much of which was “stuffed into envelopes and hidden in clothing, closets, and a safe,” according to prosecutors.
Agents reportedly discovered a Mercedes-Benz luxury vehicle purchased by Mr Uribe parked in the garage, as well as $100,000 in gold bars in the property, images of which were included in the indictment.
Prosecutors quoted from Mr Menendez’s website during a news conference on Friday, detailing the limits of his power as a legislator, including his inability to intervene in criminal cases.
“Behind the scenes, Senator Menendez was doing those things for certain people – the people who were bribing him in his wife,” said US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Damian Williams.
Prosecutors allege in the indictment that Mr Menendez’s wife conspired with one of the three New Jersey businessmen, Mr Hana, to introduce the senator to Egyptian intelligence and military officers. According to authorities, Mr Hana, who is originally from Egypt, exchanged thousands of text conversations with Mrs Menendez, which she deleted from her cell phone.
According to the accusation, Mr Hana and Mrs Menendez struck up a “corrupt agreement” in which the New Jersey businessman provided money in exchange for the senator benefiting the Egyptian government with foreign military sales and foreign military finance.
Prosecutors claim that on one occasion, Mr Menendez secretly ghostwrote a letter on behalf of the Egyptian government in an attempt to persuade other US senators to lift a hold on $300 million in aid to Egypt.
In exchange for help to Egyptian officials, Mr Hana agreed to compensate Mrs Menendez with a “low-or-no-show” job, according to prosecutors.
Mr Menendez is also accused of accepting the Mercedes Benz convertible in exchange for obstructing a state criminal investigation against one of Mr Uribe’s acquaintances in New Jersey.
Mr Menendez and his wife have been ordered to surrender many assets, including their New Jersey house, as a result of the allegations.
The BBC has reached out to Mr Hana’s and Mr Daibes’ enterprises for comment. Egypt’s Embassy in Washington, DC did not respond to a request for comment.
Mr Menendez, his wife, and their three co-defendants are expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan on September 27.
Menendez was charged with conspiracy, bribery, and honest services fraud in 2015 by federal prosecutors from the US Attorney’s Office in New Jersey for allegedly misusing his office’s power.
Prosecutors allege that in exchange for political favors, the senator got more than $600,000 in campaign contributions, a lavish hotel suite at the Park Hyatt in Paris, and free rides on a private plane from a wealthy ophthalmologist, Dr. Salomon Melgen.
Menendez’s corruption trial concluded in a mistrial in November 2017 when the jury declared itself deadlocked. Both guys disputed all of the allegations. Following the mistrial, they were acquitted of multiple crimes by a federal judge in 2018. The remaining charges against Menendez were withdrawn by the Justice Department.
Melgen was convicted in a separate case on dozens of charges of health care fraud and sentenced to 17 years in prison, but his sentence was commuted by then-President Donald Trump in 2021.
Following the announcement of his mistrial in 2017, a defiant Menendez issued a warning during a press conference.
“To those who were digging my political grave so that they could jump into my seat, I know who you are, and I won’t forget you,” he stated at the time.