Federal prosecutors on Tuesday said that Sen. Bob Menendez’s (D-NJ) alleged bribery scheme was even more brazen than previously thought. In addition to accusing the Democratic senator of shilling for a new country, a superseding indictment alleges that Menendez continued to participate in the purported bribery scheme long after FBI agents first approached him in the investigation.
Manhattan federal prosecutors tacked on 15 paragraphs of new allegations in which they say that Menendez agreed to use his position as head of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to benefit the government of Qatar as part of an alleged scheme involving a New Jersey real estate developer and political fundraiser.
The updated indictment also accused Menendez and his wife, Nadine Arslanian, of engaging in a cover up after federal agents first executed search warrants on Menendez’s home in June 2022.
The new allegations come in a superseding indictment unsealed in Manhattan federal court on Tuesday. The document does not add any new charges; Menendez faces one count of conspiracy to commit bribery, one count of conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, one count of conspiracy to commit extortion, and one count of conspiracy for a public official to act as a foreign agent.
In the previous two iterations of his indictment, prosecutors cast Menendez as abusing his position to benefit Egypt. A cast of three New Jersey characters — meat market magnate Wael Hana, disbarred insurance broker Jose Uribe, and aforementioned real estate developer Fred Daibes — were all accused in the indictments of supplying Menendez with bribes in exchange for various official acts, many of which purportedly benefitted Cairo.
Now, prosecutors lay out a scheme in which Menendez allegedly agreed to use his influential position within the Senate to praise the Qatari government and work to pass a resolution supporting Doha. Prosecutors say that Menendez worked to receive material benefit by helping Daibes court Qatari officials for millions of dollars in investment from a fund with ties to the Gulf monarchy.
Daibes, prosecutors said, then supplied Menendez with gold bars, and suggested pricey wristwatches to the senator.
Prosecutors said that the Qatar scheme began in 2021, as Daibes sought investment for a New Jersey real estate project. In June of that year, the indictment says, Menendez introduced Daibes to a member of the Qatari royal family who was also a principal of the unnamed investment fund.
From there, prosecutors say, the fund began to consider whether to invest in Daibes’ real estate project. Menendez — then chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee — began to roll out multiple statements lavishing praise on Qatar. In one August 2021 statement mentioned by prosecutors, Menendez lauded Qatar as “moral exemplars” because the country accepted Afghan refugees.
Menendez made sure that both Daibes and Qatari officials knew about that statement, prosecutors said. He allegedly sent Daibes the text of the release, and told him to send it to the royal family member.
The New Jersey Democrat kept up his contacts with Qatari officials, prosecutors said. He traveled to the Gulf state in October 2021. Upon his return, Daibes’ driver picked him and his wife up from the airport. Per the indictment, Menendez entered “how much is one kilo of gold worth” into an online search engine the next day.
But the Qatari investors had yet to commit, prosecutors said. The next month, it was Daibes who sent Menendez an update on a proposed Senate resolution that prosecutors characterized as “supportive of Qatar.” Before Daibes traveled to London to meet with the royal family member in January 2022, Menendez allegedly texted both of them that he hoped the meeting would “result in the favorable and mutually beneficial agreement that you have been both engaged in discussing.”
But per the indictment, it wasn’t until months later, in May 2022, that Qatari investors agreed to sign a letter of intent committing to enter into a joint venture with a company controlled by Daibes as part of the real estate investment. Daibes gave Menendez a gold bar afterwards, prosecutors said; an unnamed Qatari official gave a close relative of Menendez’s wife Formula One tickets.
By then, federal investigators were bearing down. FBI agents approached Menendez and the three New Jersey businessmen in June 2022 with search warrants. But per the superseding indictment, that didn’t stop the scheme: the Qatari firm formally entered into the joint venture with Daibes in 2023. Prosecutors said that Menendez continued to “receive things of value” from the Qatari investment firm, but only specified four more Formula One tickets that his wife’s relative received, allegedly in May 2023.
After the searches, prosecutors say that Menendez and his wife sought to “cover up” the scheme.
Prosecutors had previously accused Menendez of taking money from Wael Hana, the Egypt-born New Jersey businessman, in exchange for acts benefitting Cairo. TPM reported in September that Menendez worked to release a hold on $300 million in aid to Egypt which the Senate had placed over the case of April Corley, an American roller skater who was seeking compensation from Cairo after being strafed by an Egyptian military helicopter while on vacation.
Menendez and Arslanian allegedly tried to cover up that instance of purported bribery by refunding Hana. A Halal meat important company Hana controlled had allegedly helped Arslanian as part of the scheme by paying off part of her mortgage; Menendez and his wife allegedly sent Hana’s attorney a check for $23,568 after the searches with a handwritten memo line that described the payment as for “Full payment of Wael Hana loan.”
Prosecutors said that the mortgage payment was never intended to be a loan.
Menendez has denied the charges against him and is pleading not guilty. A spokesman for the senator did not immediately return TPM’s request for comment.