Feds add allegations of Qatari influence against indicted Sen. Bob Menendez

Feds add allegations of Qatari influence against indicted Sen. Bob Menendez

Sen. Bob Menendez spoke kindly of Qatar in official proceedings to help a developer friend who paid him bribes, according to new legal filings against New Jersey’s senior senator.

A second superseding indictment of the 70-year-old Democratic senator — who along with his wife Nadine has already been charged with four counts of bribery, fraud and acting as an unregistered foreign agent — was returned Tuesday. He and Nadine Menendez have pleaded not guilty to those charges, and the senator’s lawyer said the new allegations “stink of desperation.”

The new indictment adds another layer to the deep, detailed allegations that have all but cost Menendez, the former chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, his political career since the first indictment dropped in September. He has already been charged with seeking to aid the Egyptian government and help another co-defendant, Wael Hana, secure a lucrative, exclusive Halal certification contract with the Egyptian government in exchange for hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and gold bars, as well as a new car for Nadine.

According to the indictment Tuesday, Menendez introduced co-defendant Fred Daibes, a developer, to a member of the Qatari royal family and principal of a state-linked investment company as Daibes sought financing for a major real estate project.

The company is not named in the indictment, but according to The Record, Daibes sold a major stake in an Edgewater development project for $45 million to Heritage Advisors of London, which was founded by Sheikh Sultan bin Jassim Al Thani.

While the company was considering the investment, Menendez “made multiple public statements supporting the government of Qatar,” prosecutors allege, and provided them to Daibes to share with the Qatari investor and a government official from the country.

“You might want to send to them. I’m just about to release,” Menendez allegedly messaged Daibes on an encrypted app before putting out a pro-Qatari statement.

In an Aug. 20, 2021 statement, Menendez praised Qatar for accepting Afghan refugees who had aided the United States. “I am grateful to see our friends and allies in Qatar be moral exemplars by accepting Afghans ultimately seeking safe haven in the U.S. after being forced to escape for their lives,” he wrote.

Several days after attending a private event in Manhattan hosted by the Qatari government, Daibes allegedly messaged Menendez photos of wrist watches with prices ranging from $9,900 to $23,900, asking “How about one of these.”

In January 2022, as Daibes was about to meet the Qatari investor in London, Menendez allegedly texted both of them: “Greetings, I understand my friend is going to visit with you on the 15th of the month. I hope that this will result in the favorable and mutually beneficial agreement that you have both engaged in discussing.”

That May, according to the indictment, the Qatari company signed a letter of intent to enter into a joint venture with Daibes and “thereafter, Daibes provide Menendez with at least one gold bar.” Three days later, following a dinner with Daibes, Menendez allegedly Googled “one kilo gold price.”

The new indictment alleges that the Qatari government, at Menendez’s request, provided a “close relative” of his wife’s with tickets to the 2022 and 2023 Formula One Grand Prix in Miami.

The Menendezes also allegedly sought to “cover up the bribery scheme” by refunding money to Hana and co-defendant Jose Uribe for a mortgage payment and car payment, respectively, and characterizing them as loans.

Menendez, who survived a different corruption trial when a jury deadlocked in 2017, is set to go to trial in May. He has publicly proclaimed his innocence, though New Jersey Democrats have dropped support for him. His attorney Adam Fee called the new allegations “a string of baseless assumptions and bizarre conjectures” based on routine contacts Menendez had with officials and constituents. He added that Menendez has always acted appropriately with Egypt, Qatar and other countries.

“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,” Fee said in a statement. “This latest Indictment only exposes the lengths to which these hostile prosecutors will go to poison the public before a trial even begins. But these new allegations don’t change a thing, and their theories won’t survive the scrutiny of the court or a jury.”

Erica Orden contributed to this report.

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