Sen. Bob Menendez of NJ accused of abusing his position to benefit Qatar

By: - January 2, 2024 9:07 pm

In a new superseding indictment, federal authorities have accused Sen. Bob Menendez of abusing his position to help both the government of Qatar and a businessman friend who wanted a Qatari investor’s millions. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Federal authorities issued a new superseding indictment against Sen. Bob Menendez Tuesday, accusing the former head of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee of accepting bribes to benefit both the government of Qatar and a friend who was looking to hook a Qatari investor for his real estate development.

The new accusations come three months after authorities filed another superseding indictment accusing Menendez, who was first indicted last September, of acting as a foreign agent for Egypt. The Democrat is charged with corruption, bribery, and conspiring to act as a foreign agent.

The newest filing contains no new charges but expands the timeline of the alleged bribery and extortion conspiracy into 2023 and more thoroughly details investigators’ findings and accusations.

In the latest indictment, U.S. Attorney Damian Williams of the Southern District of New York laid out a scheme in which Menendez allegedly introduced Fred Daibes, his developer friend and co-defendant, in July 2021 to an investor who was a member of Qatar’s royal family.

Menendez greased the skids for the multi-million-dollar investment by praising the Qatari government in an August 2021 press release — first using an encrypted messaging app to secretly share the announcement with Daibes so the developer could share it with the investor and a Qatari government official, according to the indictment.

“You might want to send to them,” the senator said, according to messages cited in the indictment. “I am just about to release.”

In exchange, the indictment alleges, Daibes paid Menendez in cash and gold bars, and the Qatari investor gave a relative of Menendez’s wife, Nadine, tickets to the Formula One Grand Prix race in Miami in 2022 and 2023. Nadine Menendez is a co-defendant.

The scheme didn’t end there, according to the indictment.

After Menendez and Daibes attended a private event the Qatari government hosted in Manhattan in September 2021, Daibes sent an encrypted message to the senator showing luxury wristwatches worth up to $23,990, writing: “How about one of these?” At the time, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee was weighing a resolution supportive of Qatar, according to the indictment.

Menendez and his wife visited Qatar and Egypt in October 2021, and a day after their return, the senator searched online “how much is one kilo of gold worth,” the indictment alleges. Investigators later found 20 one-kilogram gold bars and nine one-ounce gold bars in Menendez’s home.

The senator did not report any of the cash, gold bars, or Grand Prix tickets on annual financial disclosure forms, which require him and his spouse to list all income received, according to the indictment.

Menendez’s spokespeople did not respond to a request for comment.

The senator, 70, has previously denied wrongdoing, pled not guilty, and refused calls to resign his seat, which he has held since 2006. He stepped down as chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee shortly after he was initially charged.

Last week, a judge denied Menendez’s request to delay his trial, which is set for May 6. That’s one month before New Jersey’s primary elections, when Rep. Andy Kim (D-03) and First Lady Tammy Murphy are among the Democrats vying to succeed Menendez. Menendez has not said whether he intends to seek a new term this year.

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Dana DiFilippo
Dana DiFilippo

Dana DiFilippo is a reporter for the New Jersey Monitor, a sibling site of the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. She formerly worked at WHYY, Philadelphia’s NPR station, and the Philadelphia Daily News, a paper known for exposing corruption and holding public officials accountable. Prior to that, she worked at newspapers in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, and suburban Philadelphia and has freelanced for various local and national magazines, newspapers and websites. She lives in Central Jersey with her husband, a photojournalist, and their two children.