US Senator Bob Menendez reveals wife’s breast cancer amid corruption trial

Nadine Menendez
Nadine Menendez is being tried on corruption charges separately. She has cited the need for surgery in a request to delay her trial. (Image: AP/Yuki Iwamura)

US Senator Bob Menendez has revealed that his wife has breast cancer, a day after his lawyers sought to blame her as he goes on trial for corruption.

He is accused of accepting bribes, including gold bars, in exchange for helping three New Jersey businessmen and the governments of Egypt and Qatar.

The 70-year-old’s wife, Nadine Menendez, is a co-defendant, though she will be tried separately.

Both deny the charges, which threaten to destroy his career.

Mr Menendez said in a statement on Thursday that his 57-year-old wife would undergo a mastectomy following her diagnosis with Grade 3 breast cancer.

He said Mrs Menendez, whom he wed in 2020, had asked him to disclose her medical condition due to “constant press inquires and reporters following [her]”.

“We are of course, concerned about the seriousness and advanced stage of the disease,” the senator added.

His disclosure came as jurors in his corruption case heard on Thursday from an FBI agent who testified that he had to call reinforcements to count all the cash found in a raid on the Menendez home in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

In total, FBI agent Aristotelis Kougemitros said they seized over $486,000 (£383,000) in cash that had been stuffed in different items around the house, including a Burberry bag, a brown paper bag, a yellow plastic bag, five jackets, a small black duffle bag and Timberland boots.

Bob Menendez outside court
Bob Menendez has sought to shift blame for his alleged bribe-taking to his wife

 

“The sheer volume of bills that we encountered, which you can see in some of the photographs, was too much to count by hand,” Mr Kougemitros told the court.

The FBI also seized 11 mini-gold bars weighing 1oz, along with two 1kg gold bars. They were passed round to the jury.

In opening statements, prosecutors said Mr Menendez, who has been a senator since 2006, had “betrayed the people he was supposed to serve for bribes”.

They alleged that the cash and gold bars found in his home were gifted to him by Egyptian officials for political favours in Washington.

Prosecutor Lara Pomerantz also accused Mr Menendez of receiving a Mercedes-Benz in exchange for interfering with a criminal case involving Egyptian-American businessman Wael Hana, who is a co-defendant in the case.

Mrs Menendez is accused of being the go-between in these bribes.

Avi Weitzman, a lawyer for Mr Menendez, maintained his client took no bribes and did not violate the law. He added that some of the gold bars belonged to Mrs Menendez.

During opening statements on Wednesday, Mr Weitzman sought to shift fault to the senator’s wife, saying she had “kept him in the dark” on financial matters, and that the couple had separate bank accounts.

Lawyers for the other co-defendants in the case, Mr Hana and New Jersey real estate developer Fred Daibes – who is accused of giving cash and gold bars to Mr Menendez – told the court that their clients are long-time close friends of Mrs Menendez, and that they often traded gifts.

“Don’t let them say that every gift is a bribe,” said Lawrence Lustberg, a lawyer for Mr Hana.

Mr Menendez was the top-ranking Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee for more than five years, which gave him sway over US foreign policy. He was removed as chairman after he was charged.

He has been charged with 16 felony counts, including bribery, extortion, wire fraud, obstruction of justice and acting as a foreign agent, and faces prison time if convicted.

Mrs Menendez is due to be tried in July on bribery and corruption charges.

In 2017, Mr Menendez went on trial for criminally accepting favours from a Florida doctor, but that ended in a mistrial.

Source: bbc.co.uk

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