The Department of Justice is looking into whether Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.) was given expensive gifts, headlined by a Mercedes-Benz, a luxury Washington apartment, jewelry and money, according to reports.
The main question for DOJ investigators centers around whether the gifts were from the owner or associates of IS EG Halal, based in Edgewater, N.J. The company was handed an exclusive contract to conduct Halal meat certification with the Egyptian government.
As NBC News notes, the move was made despite the company having no prior experience in that area, according to U.S. Department of Agriculture officials.
Menendez, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee chairman, last week denied he was involved in any wrongdoing.
“I am sure it is going to end up in absolutely nothing,” Menendez said.
Sources told NBC News that Damian Williams, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, is heading up the probe into whether Menendez or his wife, Nadine Arslanian, received any gifts and whether the Senate Democrat took any official action in return.
According to Senate rules, items given to a lawmaker are considered gifts if a senator “has reason to believe the gift was given because of the official position.”
A Menendez spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.
A spokesperson for Wael Hana, IS EG Halal’s owner, denied that any gifts were provided to Menendez or his wife.
“Allegations about cars, apartments, cash and jewelry being provided by anyone associated with IS EG Halal to Sen. Menendez or his wife at all, let alone in exchange for any kind of favorable treatment, are totally without basis,” the spokesperson told NBC.
IS EG Halal won the exclusive contract in 2019 over a number of other companies that were subsequently cut off by the Egyptian government, swinging millions of dollars in its direction.
Menendez’s most recent financial disclosure does not include any mention of a Washington apartment or a Mercedes-Benz.
This is not Menendez’s first run-in with prosecutors as he was indicted on federal corruption charges in 2015. The charges were dropped in 2018 after a jury was unable to reach a verdict .
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