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Wael Hana: Who is the halal meat importer accused of bribing US Senator Menendez?

September 28, 2023 at 2:57 pm

Senator Bob Menendez and his wife Nadine Menendez (not seen) depart a Manhattan court after they were arraigned on federal bribery charges in New York, United States on September 27, 2023 [Fatih Aktaş – Anadolu Agency]

US Senator Bob Menendez and his wife, Nadine, were indicted last week on bribery charges following a federal investigation into their relationship with three New Jersey businessmen, Anadolu Agency reports.

The senior Senator from New Jersey is accused of accepting luxury items and substantial sums of money in bribes, including $150,000 in gold bars and a Mercedes-Benz convertible for his wife in exchange for engaging in corrupt activities.

Wael Hana, an Egyptian-American businessman, who is now the central figure in a corrupt scheme that directed hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to Menendez, was taken into custody at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York on Tuesday.

Speaking to CBS News, his attorney, Lawrence Lustberg, said that Hana “returned voluntarily from Egypt so that he would have the opportunity to prove his innocence, which we are confident he will be able to do after a full and fair trial.”

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According to a federal indictment released on Friday, Hana played a role in arranging undisclosed meetings and dinners between Menendez, his wife and Egyptian military and intelligence officials as part of a covert initiative aimed at leveraging the Senator’s influence to boost US aid to Egypt.

During these meetings, Egyptian officials urged Menendez to authorise the release of military aid that Washington had withheld due to concerns about the country’s human rights record.

In 2018, after meetings between Menendez and Egyptian officials which were organised and attended by his wife and Hana, Menendez sent a text message to his wife instructing her to inform Hana that he would sign off on a multimillion-dollar weapons sale to Egypt, according to the indictment.

Nadine forwarded the message to Hana, who then forwarded it to two Egyptian officials. One of them responded with a “thumbs up” emoji.

Menendez continued to engage in similar communications in the following years. For instance, in January 2022, Menendez shared a news article link with his wife which reported on two pending foreign military sales to Egypt totalling around $2.5 billion.

Nadine forwarded the link to Hana along with the message: “Bob had to sign off on this,” the indictment said.

Hana, a Christian, founded the New Jersey-based company, IS EG Halal Certified, Inc. (IS EG Halal), and was the sole certifier of halal meat imported to Egypt, despite having no previous experience in halal certification.

“Halal had little to no revenue until the spring of 2019,” according to the indictment.

Menendez took actions aimed at benefiting both Egypt and Hana, and “improperly advised and pressured an official at the United States Department of Agriculture to protect the monopoly granted to Hana by Egypt,” the indictment said.

Nadine was friends with Hana for many years before she met and married Menendez in October 2020.

During a conversation about her requests for help with mortgage payments, she said: “When I feel comfortable and plan the trip to Egypt, he (Hana) will be more powerful than the President of Egypt,” the indictment said.

Hana also had business ties with Fred Daibes, a New Jersey real estate developer and long-time campaign fundraiser for Menendez, as well as Jose Uribe, who has insurance and trucking businesses in New Jersey.

The indictment also accuses Menendez of attempting to disrupt a federal criminal prosecution brought by the US Attorney’s Office for the District of New Jersey against Daibes and disrupt a criminal case undertaken by the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office related to associates of Uribe.

READ: US Senator Bob Menendez pleads not guilty to corruption charges