Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) allegedly received wristwatches and racing tickets as bribes from Qatar, according to an indictment released on Tuesday.
Menendez, one of Israel’s strongest supporters in Congress, was first charged with bribery and extortion counts in September when federal prosecutors alleged that he received cash, gold bars and a Mercedes convertible in exchange for assisting the Egyptian government and a group of businessmen involved in a New Jersey-based halal meat-inspection company.
Tuesday’s indictment, which replaces the prior one, is the first indication that the former Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman may have also received payoffs from Qatar.
Qatar and Egypt have been regional rivals for the past decade, but their relations have warmed following the restoration of ties between Qatar and Saudi Arabia in 2021.
Fred Daibes is a New Jersey-based real estate developer and one of five co-defendants in the case, all of whom have pleaded not guilty.
“Robert Menendez and Fred Daibes, the defendants, attended a private event in Manhattan hosted by the Qatari government,” according to the indictment.
“Several days later, on or about Sept. 27, 2021, Daibes sent Menendez, via an encrypted messaging application, photographs of a computer monitor depicting luxury wristwatches with prices ranging from $9,990 to $23,990, and asked Menendez, ‘How about one of these,’” it added.
The indictment alleges that Menendez helped broker Qatar’s multimillion-dollar investment in Daibes’s real estate investments and that in his role as committee chairman, he helped pass a 2021 Senate resolution supporting the Gulf state.
In exchange, a “close relative” of Mendenez’s wife, Nadine, who has also been charged in the scheme, allegedly received several tickets to the Formula One Grand Prix in Miami.
“On or about Jan. 4, 2022, in advance of a planned trip by Fred Daibes, the defendant, to meet with the Qatari investor in London, Robert Menendez, the defendant, used an encrypted messaging application to text the Qatari Investor and Daibes, ‘Greetings. I understand my friend is going to visit with you on the 15th of the month. I hope that this will result in the favorable and mutually beneficial agreement that you have been both engaged in discussing,’” per the indictment.
Also per the indictment, “On or about March 31, 2022, i.e., the day of the sale by Nadine Menendez, a/k/a Nadine Arslanian, the defendant, of gold bars described in paragraph 53.”
“Robert Menendez and Fred Daibes, the defendants, met for dinner,” it added. “That evening, Nadine Menendez texted Menendez, ‘Is it just you, Fred and the Qataris in the private room this entire time?’ and Menendez replied in the affirmative.”
Qatar, which is a U.S.-designated “major non-NATO ally,” and its relationship with the United States have been under increased scrutiny from U.S. lawmakers since Hamas’s Oct. 7 attack on Israel about the Gulf state hosting the terror organization’s political leadership in Doha.
Menendez’s lawyer, Adam Fee, denied the allegations in a statement Tuesday.
“The government’s new allegations stink of desperation,” Fee said. “Despite what they’ve touted in press releases, the government does not have the proof to back up any of the old or new allegations against Senator Menendez. What they have instead is a string of baseless assumptions and bizarre conjectures based on routine, lawful contacts between a senator and his constituents or foreign officials.”
“At all times, Senator Menendez acted entirely appropriately with respect to Qatar, Egypt and the many other countries he routinely interacts with,” he added.