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Senator Menendez's Trial Reveals Alleged Bribery Scheme

Sen. Robert Menendez, D-N.J., leaves federal court Thursday, May 16, 2024, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)

A witness at Senator Bob Menendez's bribery trial revealed how the cost of certifying Halal meat for export to Egypt surged after a single U.S. company gained a monopoly in a deal allegedly orchestrated by the Senator. The witness, a former U.S. diplomat based in Cairo, testified that the certification cost spiked from $200-$400 per container to over $5,000 after Menendez's co-defendant, Wael “Will” Hana, secured the exclusive rights.

Prosecutors claim that Menendez, along with Hana and a third businessman, accepted bribes in exchange for creating the monopoly. Menendez faces charges including bribery, extortion, fraud, and acting as a foreign agent of Egypt. Both Menendez and Hana have pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The witness recounted how efforts to expand the number of companies exporting meat to Egypt were abruptly halted when the Egyptian government insisted on a single company, specifically Hana's, handling the certification process. Despite Hana's lack of experience in the field, the monopoly was granted, leading to a significant increase in certification fees.

Menendez's wife, also implicated in the case, had her trial postponed due to a breast cancer diagnosis. Prosecutors allege that the couple received gold and hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash to assist New Jersey businessmen.

In defense, Hana's attorney argued that his client had not engaged in any wrongdoing and that the Egyptian government's decision to grant the monopoly was independent of Menendez's influence. The attorney emphasized that Hana's company secured the halal certification contracts based on merit and quality standards.

The trial, expected to last up to two months, sheds light on the alleged corruption involving Menendez, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. The case underscores the intricate web of relationships and dealings that have come under scrutiny in the federal court proceedings.

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