Bob Menendez, a Democrat senator in the US, has been indicted on charges he took cash, gold and a luxury car in exchange for alleged corruption.
Menendez and his wife are alleged to have handed over sensitive US government information to Egyptian officials, as well as taking other steps to help the country, including ghost-writing a letter that pushed his colleagues to lift a bar on $300m (£224m) in aid.
Officials also said the senator, who chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, tried to halt a criminal investigation into an associate by pushing for a US attorney nominee that he thought he could influence.
The couple’s home was searched, with investigators finding $100,000 (£81,000) in gold bars, as well as $480,000 (£390,000) in hidden cash, according to prosecutors, who revealed the charges against Menendez almost six years after a previous criminal case against him ended with a deadlocked jury.
Responding, Menendez accused prosecutors of misrepresenting “the normal work of a congressional office” and writing “these charges as they wanted”, adding he has been falsely accused of accepting bribes and “will not be distracted” from his work in the Senate.
“For years, forces behind the scenes have repeatedly attempted to silence my voice and dig my political grave,” Menendez said.
“Since this investigation was leaked nearly a year ago, there has been an active smear campaign of anonymous sources and innuendos to create an air of impropriety where none exists.”
A lawyer for his wife Nadine said she denies the charges.
Prosecutors alleged in 2020 the 69-year-old lobbied then-secretary of state Mike Pompeo to increase US engagement in stalled talks with Egypt, Ethiopia and Sudan to build a dam over the Nile, following a meeting with an Egyptian official.
They said Menendez and his wife accepted hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from three business associates, as well as using influence to encourage the president to choose a US attorney for New Jersey who would protect Fred Daibes, a friend and developer who was facing criminal charges.
According to the indictment, after Menendez called an official about Daibes, his wife received a Mercedes-Benz from other business associates.
The indictment says that after the purchase was complete, Nadine Menendez texted her husband to say: “Congratulations mon amour de la vie, we are the proud owners of a 2019 Mercedes,” with a heart emoji.
The New Jersey senator will have to step down from his foreign committee, according to party rules.
It is not the first time he has faced legal charges – in was indicted in 2015 over accusations he used his influence to help an eye doctor from Florida, who had been handing over gifts to him.
He was eventually cleared of the charges.
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