Egyptian-American businessman Wael Hana - one of the people accused of participating in Democratic Senator Robert Menendez's bribery scheme - was released on bail after pleading not guilty in a hearing in federal court in Manhattan.
Hana had previously been arrested at John F. Kennedy International Airport in New York upon arrival into the country. The businessman - who lives between the U.S. and Egypt, where his wife and children reside - returned to New York to appear in court.
Bond and mobility restrictions
Judge Ona Wang's ruling released the businessman on a $5 million personal recognizance bond. His bail includes all of his shares of his company Capital Management, LLC as collateral.
In addition, Hana handed over his passports and documents to the Justice Department. He will be under strict GPS location monitoring, and has a curfew which requires him to be in his New Jersey home from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
The businessman's lawyer, Lawrence Lustberg, declared - after the hearing - that his client admitted to having a relationship with Nadine Menendez, the senator's wife. However, he simply said that he had known her for "many, many years." In addition, he said that he did not consider himself a friend of Menendez.
Hana, Menendez's accomplice
U.S. Attorney Damian Williams alleged that "Senator Menéndez and his wife engaged in a corrupt relationship with Wael Hana, Jose Uribe and Fred Daibes - three New Jersey businessmen who collectively paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes, including cash, gold, a Mercedes Benz and other things of value, in exchange for Senator Menendez agreeing to use his power and influence to protect and enrich those businessmen and to benefit the Government of Egypt."
The businessman was charged with "conspiracy to commit bribery" and "conspiracy to commit honest services fraud," charges that carry penalties of five to 20 years in prison.
Bob Menendez's case
Bob Menendez was indicted by the Department of Justice for corruption. He is facing three different charges: conspiracy to commit extortion under color of official right, another for public officials who accept bribes in exchange for official acts, and a third linking the bribes to the committee's work.
The three-count indictment, which also involves wife, is for allegedly using his official position in a series of corruption cases not only in the country but also abroad. In one of the cases, the senator allegedly tried to benefit the Government of Egypt.
Menendez has already resigned as chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. However, he recently issued a statement announcing that he refuses to resign from his position as senator. He defended his work and claimed he will be exonerated of the bribery accusations against him:
Everything I’ve accomplished I’ve worked for, despite the naysayers and everyone who has underestimated me. I recognize this will be the biggest fight yet. But as I have stated throughout this whole process, I firmly believe that when all the facts are presented, not only will I be exonerated, but I still will be New Jersey’s senior senator.
In addition, he claimed that "prosecutors also make mistakes." He explained that the cash, almost $500,000, and the gold bars found in his house were from his personal savings account. He claimed that he kept them at home for emergencies and because of what his family experienced with the Cuban regime, which confiscated many of their assets.
For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba. This might seem old-fashioned, but these were monies drawn from my personal savings account based on the income that I have lawfully derived over those 30 years.