FBI investigating Democratic Senator over potential bribes
The ongoing criminal investigation into Democrat Senator Bob Menendez (NJ) and his spouse has yielded fresh insights. Federal prosecutors are reportedly investigating whether the couple accepted extravagant presents from a meat business in exchange for senatorial actions.
The gifts, potentially worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, include a Mercedes-Benz, an upscale apartment in the pricey D.C. area, cash, and jewelry. It is suggested these presents came from IS EG Halal, a halal meat company, or its associates, the Daily Wire reported.
The focus of the investigation, as reported by NBC News, is on the circumstances around which IS EG Halal, a firm with minimal prior experience, won an exclusive contract in 2019 to be the sole company certifying halal exports from Egypt. Observers have voiced concerns over the manner in which such a lucrative contract was awarded.
Effects on Other Halal Companies
Following IS EG Halal securing the contract, the Egyptian government dismissed seven other established global firms, leading to substantial financial losses.
The USA Halal Chamber of Commerce said in a statement, "This was an unfortunate decision as all of us certifiers lost our authorizations to provide Halal certification for Egypt. This had a severe impact on the industry."
IS EG Halal is reportedly run by a Christian with scant experience in the Islamic certification of international meat imports and exports.
It's worth noting that Menendez chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which controls billions of dollars in aid to Egypt. The relationship between his role and the contract awarding is being examined.
Possible Tax Implications
The IRS has also joined in, with its criminal investigators assessing whether Menendez and his spouse have reported these gifts in their tax filings. The items were not reported in Menendez's Senate disclosure forms, adding to the suspicion.
The former deputy assistant inspector general at the USDA, Peter Paradis, expressed his disbelief at the scenario.
Egypt awarding the exclusive contract to IS EG Halal and canceling the others is a decision that, according to Paradis, "defies logic." He emphasized the company's lack of experience in halal certification, questioning the validity of designating them as the sole certifying entity.
The Stance of Menendez and IS EG Halal
Despite the mounting allegations, both IS EG Halal and Menendez have maintained their innocence.
In October, Menendez said, "I know of an investigation. Don't know the scope or the subjects and, of course, stand ready to help authorities when and if they ask any questions."
Federal prosecutors are also investigating if anyone linked to the company offered bribes to Egyptian officials. Such an action would potentially violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.
The scope of the criminal investigation has broadened recently following a subpoena issued to powerful North Bergen Democrat Mayor Nicholas Sacco. This subpoena sought information about certain legislative changes in New Jersey related to a proposed development deal.
Previous Allegations against Menendez
Menendez is no stranger to legal scrutiny. In 2015, he was indicted on bribery charges for allegedly accepting luxury vacations, golf outings, campaign donations, and expensive flights from Florida physician Salomon Melgen in return for political favors.
The charges included Melgen being found guilty in Florida for operating a large scheme that defrauded Medicare of up to $105 million, as the Palm Beach Post reported.
The investigation into Menendez was initiated following a tip-off in 2012 alleging that the senator was involved in sexual activities with underage prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. However, the case ended in a mistrial as the jury was split.