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The story of Bob Menendez and the American halal meat certificates exported to Egypt

Voices are rising in the US Senate to stop military aid to Egypt worth more than $200 million in the wake of US prosecutors accusing Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez and his wife of receiving bribes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars from Egyptian-American businessman Wael Hanna in exchange for facilitating the continuation of US military aid to Egypt. This is denied by Meninder and his wife, Nadine Arslanian, who is of Lebanese origin.

قصة بوب مينينديز وشهادات اللحوم الأمريكية الحلال المصدرة لمصر وسبائك الذهب

The influential Democratic Senator from New Jersey also faces charges of interfering in criminal cases filed against businessmen Jose Uribe and Farid Daibes, who are close to Wael Hanna, and receiving bribes from them.

The defendants deny the charges against them and have been released on large financial bails, for example, Hanna's bail amounted to $5 million, and they are banned from traveling.

Gold bullion and hundreds of thousands of dollars

In June 2022, FBI agents raided the home of Menendez and Nadine Arslanian in New Jersey after obtaining judicial approval. The search also included safes belonging to them.

According to the indictment, “The proceeds of the bribery agreement were found between Menendez and his wife Nadine, Wael Hanna, known as Will Hanna, Jose Uribe, and Farid Daibes. Amounts of cash, gold, a luxury car, and furniture were found. 480,000 dollars were found, and most of this amount was banknotes inside envelopes hidden in pockets.” Clothes, a wardrobe, and safes. An amount of $70,000 in cash was also found in a safe belonging to Nadine Menendez. Some of the envelopes and gold bars bore the fingerprints of Farid Daibes or his personal driver. Some amounts of cash were also found in the pockets of jackets bearing Menendez’s name that were hanging inside the wardrobe. ".

The indictment stated that in early 2018, Nadine Arslanian told her friend Wael Hanna that she was in a relationship with Senator Bob Menendez, and during the following months and years they played the role of mediator between Menendez and Egyptian security and military officials with the aim of promoting and strengthening their criminal agreement with the help of Farid Daibes and Jose Uribe, who are also accused in this case. The case is where Hanna, in cooperation with others, provided bribes worth hundreds of thousands of dollars to Bob Menendez and his wife Nadine in exchange for Menendez performing actions inconsistent with his duties for the Egyptian government and for the benefit of Wael Hanna, which included, among other things, American military sales abroad and foreign military aid.

The meetings between Menendez and Egyptian security and military officials began in March 2018 in the presence of Nadine, who was a friend of Menendez and had not married him at the time, and Wael Hanna in Menendez’s office in the Senate in Washington, D.C. During the meetings, military aid to Egypt and other issues were discussed in the absence of Menendez’s office employees. in the Council or officials from the Congressional Foreign Relations Committee.

Meninder, Nadine, and Wael Hanna met in May of the same year. Hours after the meeting, Menendez asked the US State Department for a list of the names and nationalities of workers at the US Embassy in Cairo. Although this information is not considered confidential, it is considered very sensitive because it is a source of great concern if it reaches foreign governments or is disclosed. Without the knowledge of the official employees of the Congressional Foreign Relations Committee or the US State Department, Menendez passed the information he received from the State Department to his friend Nadine, who in turn passed the information to Wael Hanna, who in turn passed it on to an Egyptian official.

عثر على نحو نصف مليون دولار نقدا في منزل بوب مينينديز الى جانب سبائك ذهب
About half a million dollars in cash was found in Bob Menendez's home, along with gold bullion

Menendez's meetings continued with Egyptian military and security officials in the states in the presence of Wael Hanna and Nadine Arslanian, and the flow of American military aid and shipments to Egypt continued despite many senators raising their voices demanding that part of this aid be withheld or suspended due to Egypt's record in the field of human rights.

Wael Hanna failed to fulfill his pledged payments to Nadine, including payments for her work in his company (ASEG Halal), which issues health certificates for American meat exports to Egypt confirming that they are halal meat.

Hanna had founded this company some time ago with the help of his friend, the accused in this case, Farid Daibes. During 2018 and early 2019, the company did not achieve any revenues and Hanna was unable to pay what was agreed upon to Nadine.

Several months after the first meeting between Menendez and Egyptian officials in March 2018, Nadine complained to a number of those close to Wael Hanna about his failure to pay the amounts agreed upon, such that one of these close people believed that Menendez would stop helping Hanna and responding to his requests regarding Egypt. He did not fulfill his promises to Nadine and pay her.

Nadine also complained to Menendez about Wael Hanna's failure to fulfill his promises and wrote to him, "I have been feeling upset all this morning. Wael went to Egypt yesterday and thinks he is the king of the world and the countries are like the ring on his finger. I hope they will replace him."

In the second quarter of 2019, the Egyptian government granted the exclusive right to Wael Hanna Company to issue “Halal” certificates for foods exported by the United States to Egypt, even though the company and Wael did not have any previous experience in this field.

Before Wael Hanna obtained this exclusive monopoly, several American companies were authorized to issue these certificates for American meat exported to Egypt.

تزوجت نادين ارسلانيان ( يسار ) رئيس لجنة العلاقات الخارجية في مجلس الشيوخ عام 2020
She married Nadine Arslanian (left), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, in 2020

After Wael Hanna obtained this exclusive monopoly, he began paying what had been agreed upon to Nadine and Bob Menendez.

In June 2019, Nadine founded a consulting company called “Strategic International Business Consultant” with the help of Menendez, and the company was a channel for receiving bribes.

Wael Hanna’s monopoly on issuing “Halal” certificates for American meat and food exported to Egypt led to an increase in the cost of these exports, which prompted a number of government officials in the US Department of Agriculture to contact the Egyptian government to express their objection to granting Wael Hanna Company the exclusive right to issue these certificates and to demand that the government Egypt reconsiders this decision.

The Ministry prepared a report on the high cost of issuing “Halal” certificates and the negative repercussions of Wael Hanna Company’s monopoly on the American market.

In May 2019, Menendez, Nadine, and Wael Hanna met with an Egyptian security official in the senator’s office, where the issue of the impact of the human rights file on American aid to Egypt was discussed. In the same meeting, Wael asked Menendez for help in responding to the US Department of Agriculture’s objections to his company obtaining... The exclusive right to issue halal certificates for American food exports to Egypt.

Two days after the meeting, Wael Hanna presented Nadine with some letters addressed from the US Department of Agriculture to Egyptian officials, which she in turn forwarded to Menendez. A few days later, Menendez contacted a senior official in the US Department of Agriculture, asking him to stop objecting to the exclusive authorization of Wael Hanna Company to issue “Halal” certificates. Although the American official did not respond to Menendez’s request, Hanna Company continued to monopolize the issuance of these certificates.

After Wael Hanna's company took over this business, the latter succeeded in guaranteeing payments to two clubs, in cooperation with his partners Farid Daibes and Jose Uribe at times.

For example, in July 2019, the company that provided the mortgage loan to Nadine to buy her house began procedures to seize the house due to the homeowner’s failure to pay the loan installments.

Wael Hanna Company paid $23,000 to stop the confiscation procedures for Nadine’s home after a series of discussions between Nadine, Wael, Farid, and Jose. When Jose Uribe hinted that Wael might not pay the full amount required to settle the mortgage on her house, Nadine responded by saying: “When I visit Egypt, he (Wael Hanna) will become stronger than the president of Egypt.”

The indictment includes many details about the meetings between Menendez, his wife, and Wael Hanna with several Egyptian officials in the United States and in Egypt during the couple’s visit to Egypt in October 2021.

It is noteworthy that Egypt receives military aid worth $1.3 billion annually from the United States since the signing of the Camp David Accords with Israel in 1979, and is ranked second after Israel in terms of the amount of military aid it receives from the United States.

Washington has linked part of this aid to the human rights situation in Egypt since 2014, with the aim of pressuring the government of President Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to change its approach in this field.

Democratic Senator Ben Cardin currently chairs the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, succeeding Bob Menendez, who resigned as chairman of the committee following his impeachment.

It is noteworthy that Cardin is not a fan of Egypt's human rights record and has previously criticized President Badin's administration for withholding only $85 million in aid from Egypt. He said that this position will encourage Egypt to persist in human rights violations.

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