The New Jersey owner of a halal meat company that received an exclusive federal contract with U.S. Department of Agriculture pleaded not guilty this afternoon.
By John Heinis/Hudson County View
Wael Hana, 40, pleaded not guilty before Magistrate Judge Ona T. Wang in U.S. District Court of the Southern District of New York in Manhattan this afternoon.
He is represented by Lawrence Lustberg, Christina LaBruno, Ricardo Solano, Jr., and Anne Collart, all of the Newark-based law firm Gibbons, PC.
Hana is the owner of Edgewater-based meat company IS EG Halal, which has the only contract with Egypt through the USDA that allows them to certify all imported halal meat.
Federal prosecutors charge that Hana arranged meetings in 2018 between Menendez and Egyptian officials in order to trade U.S. military secrets in exchange for the federal contract.
Hana allegedly provided hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes “in exchange for Menendez’s acts and breaches of duty to benefit the Government of Egypt, Hana, and others, including with respect to foreign military sales and foreign military financing,” the indictment says.
At the time, Menendez was the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a post that he just vacated in light of the indictment.
Hana was a friend of Nadine Menendez, the senator’s wife, and is also said to receive assistance from two other New Jersey businessmen: Fred Daibes and Jose Uribe.
Senator Menendez and his wife are charged with three counts: conspiracy to commit bribery, conspiracy to commit honest services fraud, and conspiracy to commit extortion under color and official right, while Hana, Uribe, and Daibes are charged with the first two counts.
The other four defendants will be arraigned tomorrow.
The veteran Hudson County power broker said at a press event yesterday that he never acted improperly in relation to business deals with Egypt.
“Throughout my 30 years in the House of Representatives and the Senate, I have always worked to hold accountable those countries, including Egypt, for humans rights abuses,” he said at Hudson County Community College in Union City.
” … I have remained on the side of civil rights in Egypt and everywhere in the world. My record is clear and consistent in holding Egypt accountable.”
Overall, the indictment charges that the Menendezes accepted corrupt payments for their mortgage, a 2019 Mercedes-Benz C-Class C300, $486,471 in cash, another $79,760 from the safe deposit box, two one-kilogram gold bars, and 11 one-ounce gold bars.
Despite calls ranging from former House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to his friend and colleague U.S. Senator Cory Booker (D-NJ), Senator Menendez has vowed to prove his innocence at trial with no intentions of stepping down thus far.