Federal prosecutors and the FBI are probing whether Senator Robert Menendez or his wife received unrestricted gifts of a luxury car and an apartment in Washington from a halal meat company that is also the focus of a criminal investigation. two people with knowledge said Thursday.
The investigation into Mr. Menendez, a Democrat who is New Jersey’s senior senator, is linked to government searches of the meat company’s offices and the home of its chairman, according to a lawyer who met with prosecutors.
The discovery followed the Egyptian government’s decision in 2019 to make the company, IS Easy Halal of Edgewater, NJ, the sole authorized importer of halal meat in the country from anywhere in the world. The US Department of Agriculture warned that the sudden change could drive up meat prices and disrupt the market for Egypt’s 90 million Muslims.
Mr. Menendez, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has said he is willing to assist investigators and a spokesman said the senator was confident the investigation “will be closed successfully.”
“I’m sure it’s going to end in absolutely nothing,” Mr. Menendez told NBC News last week.
NBC New York News Channel 4 was the first to report the investigation into the unreported gifts. Federal officials declined to comment Thursday evening.
In a 2019 search of IS Eg Halal’s office and the home of its president, Vel Hana, authorities seized computers, cellphones and documents, according to court records. Mr. Hana, a Christian who moved to the United States from Egypt, has acknowledged in court papers that he had no prior experience to certify that he had any prior experience before he began operating his now global company in April 2019. The meat was prepared in accordance with Islamic law.
A spokesman for Mr. Hana denied Thursday that he or the company had provided gifts to Mr. Menendez or his wife, Nadine Arslanian Menendez.
“IS Easy Halal was awarded its halal certification contract with Egypt without any assistance from Senator Menendez or any other US public official,” spokeswoman Ellen Davis said in a statement.
Ms. Davis said that “the allegations that anyone associated with IS EG Halal has provided gifts to Senator Menendez or his wife, in return for any kind of favorable treatment, are completely baseless.”
There were few outward signs of movement in the recent federal investigation into Mr. Menendez, as an initial spate of subpoenas became public in October. And Mr. Menendez, 69, continues to raise money for his expected fourth term in the Senate next year. The investigation is being conducted by federal prosecutors in Manhattan and the New York FBI office.
Two weeks earlier, as part of the same investigation, Manhattan prosecutors subpoenaed documents related to a bill stalled in the New Jersey Legislature that would limit the height of construction projects near the Palisades along the Hudson River. The subpoena asked Mr. Menendez, Ms. Menendez or Fred Dibbs, one of the area’s most prominent developers, to turn over any correspondence about the bill, according to a person familiar with its contents, who requested anonymity because they are public. were not formally authorized to discuss the document.
Mr DiBiase pleaded guilty to a federal banking offense last year as part of the negotiations Settlement. The arrangement required no jail time, and delayed his sentencing, fueling speculation that he was cooperating with Menendez’s investigation.
On Thursday, one of Mr. Dibes’ attorneys, Timothy M. Donohue, said he had no comment about the status of the investigation in the Southern District of New York.
“But I can confirm that Mr. Dibbs is not a cooperating witness in that case or any other,” Mr. Donohue said in an email.
Mr. Menendez and his wife were married in October 2020 in a small ceremony in Queens.
Even before their engagement, the couple began traveling together extensively. According to a disclosure report filed in May 2021, as required by federal authorities, none of the New Jersey politicians received wedding gifts from her.
In March 2022, Mr. Menendez amended that report to add assets belonging to his wife: gold bullion bars worth between $100,001 and $250,000.
The senator’s disclosure report does not include any mention of the Mercedes or the apartment. Mr. Menendez’s Senate spokeswoman, Jennifer Morrill, said the stories relying on unnamed sources “suggest improprieties without any facts.”
She did not directly address claims that the federal investigation had expanded to include questions about a Mercedes and a Washington apartment. But she said in an email that it was irresponsible to rely on unnamed sources for such “excessive and damaging claims,” adding that “any such reporting must require legitimate and named sources, or the laws Should be worried about breakage.
Ms Menendez, who has a master’s degree in French from New York University, worked for Fusion Diagnostics, a medical testing facility in New Jersey. She also started a consulting company, Strategic International Business Consultants, in June 2019, according to disclosure reports and New Jersey business incorporation records.
Ms Morrill did not answer questions about the gold bullion.
Peter P. Paradis, who retired in January as deputy assistant inspector general for investigations in the USDA’s Office of Inspector General, said it was important to ask questions about the sudden control over the worldwide flow of halal meat by the halal company. Egypt.
“If you had a company that now has a global monopoly on anything, it should be such a concern that people should at least be asking questions about it,” Mr. Paradis said in an interview.
“And I believe that answers must be given.”