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Wednesday, June 5, 2024 | Back issues
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Menendez co-defendant instructed lawyer to pay off senator’s wife’s mortgage, witness says

Prosecutors say Senator Bob Menendez's co-defendant directed his attorney to give Nadine Menendez tens of thousands of dollars to pay off her mortgage in exchange for the senator's help in securing a monopoly on halal meat certification imported from Egypt.

MANHATTAN (CN) — Senator Bob Menendez’s purported co-conspirator directed his legal counsel to pay off the New Jersey Democrat’s then-girlfriend’s mortgage loan as part of a bribery scheme, a witness testified Tuesday in Manhattan federal court.

Menendez is facing trial for federal bribery and corruption charges in the Southern District of New York. According to federal prosecutors, the senator and highest-ranking Latino in Congress was involved in a five-year conspiracy to accept gold bars, luxury items and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash in exchange for political favors for friends linked to the Egypt and Qatar governments.

New Jersey attorney John Moldovan testified Tuesday that Menendez’s co-defendant Wael Hana, an Egyptian-American businessman from the Garden State, directed him to make payments to the senator’s wife, Nadine, in exchange for helping him secure a lucrative monopoly on certification of halal meat imported from Egypt.

“Pretty much everything that I did was because I was told to do it or because it was a function of what he wanted me to do,” Moldovan said Tuesday, referring to Hana.

Prosecutors say in the criminal indictment that Hana only secured a monopoly contract for his company IS EG Halal after Menendez called a high-level U.S. Department of Agriculture official and insisted the agency stop opposing Hana’s company’s status as Egypt’s sole halal certifier.

Prosecutors also claim that in July 2019, after IS EG Halal secured its contract with the government of Egypt, Hana ordered the company to pay Nadine Menendez approximately $23,000 after the mortgage company for her residence initiated foreclosure proceedings.

Moldovan said he was instructed by Hana to send Nadine a promissory note that articulated the loan for the mortgage with no payment schedule and no interest. But Moldovan added that Nadine seemed surprised to be receiving a loan agreement.

“She was pretty upset about this,” Moldovan said. “She didn’t see this coming or didn’t expect to be the subject of a loan.”

Moldovan added that Hana initially insisted that Nadine agree to a loan.

“He seemed adamant about the fact he wanted it to be a loan. He was very aggressive about that,” Moldovan said.

But when Moldovan tried to follow up with Nadine to accept the loan, he said Hana instructed him to just transfer the funds to her without the loan agreement.

Moldovan also said that Hana told him to give Nadine a consulting job at IS EG Halal and prepare a consultant agreement, which included a payroll of $10,000 a month. He added that the contract initially did not have an end date but Moldovan encouraged Hana to make it a three-month term length.

Moldovan said the contract was drafted between IS EG Halal and Strategic International Business Consultants — of which Nadine was president — but added he had never heard of the company.

But Moldovan said he never saw the final signed contract and had no personal knowledge of if the consulting agreement was finalized. He added that he never saw Nadine work or prepare any documents nor did he hear of anyone speaking about any work she performed.

Josh Paul, who worked as the director of congressional and public affairs for the State Department’s Bureau of Political-Military Affairs until this past October, also testified Tuesday. He said that Egypt is the second-highest receiver of defense funding from the United States, after Israel, and receives about $1.3 billion in funding annually.

Paul worked in the State Department bureau for over a decade before publicly quitting in October in protest of the Biden administration’s military assistance to Israel.

Of that funding, $300 million is conditioned on the country showing that it is making progress on human rights issues, particularly in releasing political prisoners.

“Egypt did not like the idea that there were conditions in the first place, and did not like when funding was withheld,” Paul said Tuesday.

Paul said he was familiar with Menendez’s publicly aired grievances over Egypt’s human rights violations over the years, but did not testify to the senator’s specific actions regarding funding to Egypt.

Nadine Menendez, 58, was severed from her co-defendants’ May trial due to then-undisclosed health issues and will face a separate trial this summer.

Last week, Menendez issued a statement disclosing that Nadine had been diagnosed with stage 3 breast cancer requiring mastectomy surgery.

The trial will not convene for the rest of the week and will resume Tuesday, after Memorial Day.

Follow @NikaSchoonover
Categories / Criminal, Politics, Trials

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