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Feds investigating whether Menendez and his wife received gifts including a DC apartment, Mercedes and jewelry

The Justice Department is investigating whether expensive gifts were given to New Jersey Sen. Robert Menendez and his wife, including a Mercedes-Benz, a luxury DC apartment, cash and jewelry, it said. sources familiar with the matter.

Sources say investigators want to know if the gifts — believed to be valued in the tens of thousands of dollars — came from the owner or associates of an Edgewater, NJ, company that won a controversial exclusive contract to perform the certification halal meat with the Egyptian government – even though US Department of Agriculture officials have complained that the company has no previous experience in this area.

The questions about the giveaways were first reported by WNBC and NBCNewyork.com.

“I’m sure it will achieve absolutely nothing,” Menendez said last week, denying any wrongdoing related to the ongoing federal corruption investigation.

Sources familiar with the matter say Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, along with FBI and IRS-Criminal Investigation agents are investigating whether the senator and his wife, Nadine Arslanian, improperly took gifts from the owner or associates of IS EG Halal – and whether the senator took action in return.

Menendez, a Democrat, chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, helping oversee billions of dollars in aid to Egypt.

“Prosecutors will obviously want to look at whether any money, apartments, cars were given to the senator or someone close to him in exchange for any of his official acts,” the NBC News legal analyst said. Chuck Rosenberg.

In addition to investigating any possible matching schemes, sources familiar with the matter said IRS criminal investigators are investigating whether the alleged gifts were properly accounted for on the senator’s and his wife’s tax returns. . None of the items appear on Menendez’s Senate disclosure forms.

Senate rules state in part that gifts to a member or someone close to them are considered gifts if a senator “has reason to believe that the gift was given because of his official position.”

A spokeswoman for Menendez declined to comment when asked if the senator or his wife received a Mercedes, free rent, cash or jewelry from IS EG Halal or its associates. She referred NBC News to earlier statements in which the senator acknowledged an ongoing “investigation” and said that “in the event of a formal investigation, the senator is available to provide any assistance requested of him or his office. “.

In 2019, IS EG Halal secured an exclusive contract with the Egyptian government to certify Halal meat exports worldwide. Seven long-standing companies around the world were suddenly fired by the Egyptian government and these companies lost millions of business dollars to the Edgewater company – a Christian-run company with little prior certification experience. Islamic international meat imports and exports.

Peter Paradis, the former deputy assistant inspector general at the USDA, said the contract change “defies logic.”

Paradis has had no role in the ongoing criminal investigation into the senator and his relationship with IS EG Halal. But Paradis points to previous USDA reports on the controversy, including one that said IS EG Halal “has no pre-existing relationship with the US beef industry or Islamic organizations.”

Feds investigating whether Menendez and his wife received gifts including a DC apartment, Mercedes and jewelry

“This company has no track record of performing these types of certifications – yet the country in question names them as the only entity to perform this task?” said Paradise.

A spokeswoman for Wael Hana, owner of IS EG Halal, denied this.

“Allegations of cars, apartments, money and jewelry provided by anyone associated with IS EG Halal to Senator Menendez or his wife, much less in exchange for favorable treatment, are completely baseless” , said the spokeswoman.

Sources familiar with the matter said that as part of the ongoing investigation, the FBI is investigating whether an IS EG executive or associate paid a bribe to an Egyptian official. USDA Foreign Agricultural Service agents based in Egypt have turned over related documents to the Department of Justice, the sources said.

“If representatives of this company were paying Egyptian officials for consideration, favors, advantage in business, it is a crime,” Rosenberg said. He explained that such a payment could violate the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act.

IS EG Halal said the company won the contract on the merits and denied any wrongdoing.

A spokeswoman said IS EG Halal won the contract “without any assistance from the senator or any other US official. Nor is there any evidence that the contract was awarded on the basis of bribery or bribery in Egypt – and no such thing has ever been alleged.

A spokesperson for the Egyptian Embassy in Washington, DC, did not return multiple requests for comment.

Sources close to IS EG Halal said Hana, the owner, was a long-time friend of the senator’s wife – and that friendship existed long before she even met the senator. A source close to the business said Arslanian had received gifts from the owner, including jewelry, over the years.

Sources familiar with the matter said investigators want to know if Egyptian officials were aware of the links between IS EG Halal and the senator’s wife and if there had been any efforts by an Egyptian official to attempt to carry out a foreign influence operation linked to Menendez.

“A senator can definitely help someone in their state,” Rosenberg said. “They can bond. They can organize meetings. They can defend the interests of companies within their jurisdiction. What they cannot do is accept money or gifts in exchange for an official act.

A spokesperson for Sen. Menendez declined to comment on any of the allegations, citing “the investigation” is ongoing.

In recent years, the United States Supreme Court has issued a series of decisions narrowing the definition of public corruption. In 2018, Menendez had the criminal charges against him dropped after a separate corruption trial ended in a hung jury. The allegations in that case were that Menendez took gifts and free private jet trips from now-convicted Medicare fraudster Salomon Melgen.

U.S. Attorney Damian Williams is overseeing this latest criminal investigation, according to sources and people who have received subpoenas. Nicholas Biase, a spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office, declined to comment. An FBI spokeswoman and an IRS-CI spokeswoman also declined to comment.

This investigation into Menendez appears to have gained momentum in the past two weeks, after a new series of grand jury subpoenas were sent, including one to North Bergen Mayor Nicholas Sacco. The new subpoenas do not appear to relate to an issue related to IS EG Halal, but to separate issues relating to the senator and state law relating to a proposed development deal, people familiar with the matter said.

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