Prosecutor Pulls No Punches as Menendez Trial Officially Begins

( – Democrat Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) pleaded not guilty to 16 federal counts, which include charges of bribery, obstruction, and acting as a foreign agent. The politician was charged along with three New Jersey businessmen and his wife, Nadine. Menendez, 70, is accused of taking large bribes in order to serve the interests of the Qatari and Egyptian governments, accusations which he strongly denies. His attorney, Avi Weitzman, admitted that the senator engaged in “favoritism” at times and tried to help his friends, but denied legal wrongdoing. Weitzman painted a picture of the three-term lawmaker as a man with little idea of his wife’s actions, pointing to Mrs. Menendez as the one making deals and taking money.

Prosecutor Lara Pomerantz, opening her case in a New York courtroom on May 15th, described him as a “Senator on the take” who “put greed first”. According to her opening statement, Menendez enjoyed lavish gifts for his corruption over the course of several years. She stated that the FBI had recovered $400,000 in cash from his home and that he had been paid in gold bars, checks addressed to his wife, and a luxury car.

Pomerantz described an alleged deal made with his wife’s friend Wael Hana, a New Jersey businessman. Hana is alleged to have accepted Menendez’s help in maintaining his halal meat monopoly. Another businessman from the state, Jose Uribe, is accused of financing a Mercedez convertible car for Mrs. Menendez’s use. In exchange for the $60,000 vehicle, Sen. Menendez allegedly abused his power in order to disrupt a state criminal case at Uribe’s request. Uribe alone has pleaded guilty to his charges.

Pomerantz’s description of Menendez’s alleged corruption also detailed an incident in which Menendez is said to have been paid in gold bars by the Qatari government via yet another New Jersey businessman, Fred Daibes. Again, Menendez is accused of using his power to make a case against Daibes disappear. He was also accused of trying to use his power to help Daibes gain millions of dollars via a Qatari investment fund. As well as this, Pomerantz said that Menendez sought to please the Qatari government by introducing a resolution speaking in praise of the controversial Middle Eastern kingdom. Qatar has tried to improve its international standing in recent years after being accused by many countries of financing and supporting Islamic terrorist groups such as Hamas.

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