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DOJ: Menendez connected Qatari royal with NJ businessman for profit

New allegations worsen legal challenges for Menendez, already accused of using his political influence to secretly advance Egypt's interests.
Sen. Menendez connected Qatari royal with NJ businessman for profit
Posted at 7:42 PM, Jan 02, 2024
and last updated 2024-01-03 00:00:14-05

U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez used his international clout to help a friend get a multimillion-dollar deal with a Qatari investment fund, partly by taking actions favorable to Qatar's government, federal prosecutors said Tuesday in a revised indictment.

The new allegations deepen the legal challenges for Menendez, a New Jersey Democrat, who already was charged with wielding his political influence to secretly advance Egypt's interests.

The superseding indictment in New York said the senator and his wife accepted bribes of gold bars and cash from New Jersey real estate developer Fred Daibes as a reward for several corrupt acts that included his help securing a major investment from the Qatari fund.

Prosecutors said Menendez introduced Daibes to a member of Qatar's royal family who was also a principal in the investment firm, met personally with Qatari officials and made public statements supportive of Qatar while the real estate deal was being negotiated.

The indictment said the Qatari investor eventually invested tens of millions of dollars in Daibes' development project, in a deal finalized in 2023.

Adam Fee, a lawyer for Menendez, said in a statement that prosecutors lacked proof of any wrongdoing.

"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 said.

"At all times, Senator Menendez acted entirely appropriately with respect to Qatar, Egypt, and the many other countries he routinely interacts with. Those interactions were always based on his professional judgment as to the best interests of the United States because he is, and always has been, a patriot."

Tim Donohue, a lawyer for Daibes, said he had no immediate comment.

The indictment did not identify the member of the Qatari royal family involved. Messages left with Qatar's consulate in New York and with its sovereign wealth fund, the Qatar Investment Authority, were not immediately returned.

No new charges were added to the latest version of an indictment that already charged Menendez in a bribery conspiracy that allegedly enriched the senator and his wife with a luxury car in addition to the cash and gold. The allegations involving Qatar occurred from 2021 through 2023.

Other parts of the indictment accuse Menendez, 70, and his wife, Nadine Menendez, of taking bribes from two other New Jersey businessmen besides Daibes. All have pleaded not guilty.

Among other things, Menendez is accused of ghostwriting a letter to fellow senators encouraging them to lift a hold on $300 million in aid to Egypt.

After his September arrest, the senator gave up his position as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. He has resisted calls for him to resign from his Senate seat.

The indictment contains new details about the relationship between Menendez and Daibes, a powerful New Jersey real estate developer.

Daibes has been credited with building out a string of luxury waterfront buildings, known as the "gold coast," in the New Jersey town of Edgewater.

Along the way, he has maintained cozy relationships with local officials, which enabled him to chase off rival developers and renege on promises to build affordable housing, according to a report from the New Jersey State Commission of Investigation.

Daibes already faced federal fraud charges when he was arrested in September on charges that he paid bribes to Menendez, a longtime friend. He was also accused of attempting to convince a federal prosecutor to go easy on Daibes in his bank fraud case.

The indictment said that while the Qatari investment company was considering its investment in the Daibes real estate development, Menendez made multiple public statements supporting the government of Qatar and then provided them to Daibes so he could share them with the Qatari investor and a Qatari government official.

In one August 2021 instance, the indictment said, Menendez used an encrypted messaging application to send Daibes the text of a press release in which he praised the government of Qatar, before texting Daibes: "You might want to send to them. I am just about to release."

Two months later, Menendez and his wife returned from a trip to Qatar and Egypt and were picked up at the airport by Daibes' driver, the indictment said. The next day, it added, Menendez performed an internet search for "how much is one kilo of gold worth."

The Qatari Investment Co. signed a letter of intent to enter a joint venture with a company controlled by Daibes in May 2022, the indictment said. Thereafter, it added, Daibes gave Menendez at least one gold bar.

A search of Menendez's residence produced two 1-kilogram gold bars and nine 1-ounce gold bars with serial numbers showing they'd previously been possessed by Daibes, along with about 10 envelopes of cash with tens of thousands of dollars bearing the fingerprints or DNA of Daibes, the indictment said.

The revised indictment said a Qatari investment official also sent tickets to a Formula One auto racing event to one of Nadine Menendez's close relatives.

The indictment said Menendez did not report any of the cash or gold received by himself or his spouse as required for a U.S. senator on annual financial disclosure forms.

Judge Sidney H. Stein, who is presiding over the case, refused last week to extend a May 5 trial date after defense lawyers requested more time to prepare.

In a letter to the judge late Tuesday, prosecutors said they would not oppose a delayed arraignment of the defendants or an arraignment by video.

SEE MORE: Sen. Menendez charged with acting as a foreign agent for Egypt


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