Ha! Corrupt Sen. Menendez Says Gold Bars Were Gifts, Not Bribes

WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and his wife Nadine Arslanian arrive for a reception honoring of Greek Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis and his wife Mareva Mitsotakis in the East Room of the White House on May 16, 2022 in Washington, DC. President Joe Biden hosted Mitsotakis for bilateral meetings earlier in the day where they discussed allied efforts to "support the people of Ukraine and impose economic costs on Russia for its unprovoked aggression," according to the White House. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

One of New Jersey’s most prominent real estate developers will not dispute that he gave cash and gold bars to Sen. Bob Menendez and his wife, a defense attorney in the corruption trial said Thursday.

He will dispute the reasons for giving the senator the cash and gold, though.

Attorneys for the developer, Fred Daibes, and another co-defendant, Wael Hana — both accused by federal prosecutors of giving bribes in exchange for favors from Menendez — said during their separate opening statements Thursday that the government is trying to criminalize gifts among longtime friends. They said that the government was misinterpreting the gifts as bribes — and they said there is no evidence proving the gifts were more than that.

“There is nothing criminal about being generous,” said Daibes attorney César de Castro. Daibes and Bob Menendez have known eachother for around 30 years, de Castro said. That’s the same argument Menendez and his friend, donor and co-defendant Salomon Melgen, made in their 2017 corruption trial that ended in a hung jury.

De Castro did not quantify during his opening statement the value of the cash and gold from Daibes to the Menendezes.

But as federal prosecutors called their first witness in the trial, an FBI agent who led the June 2022 search of the Menendezes’ home, jurors for hours were shown cash seized from the Menendez home in Englewood Cliffs, New Jersey.

Among the evidence shown to jurors were photos of $7,400 inside an envelope with Daibes’ name and his businesses address; $14,500 of cash inside a pair of men’s Timberland boots and a Giorgio Armani bag with cash stuffed inside another pair of boots; and seemingly countless wads of cash stuffed into envelopes and clothes strewn about Menendez’s home.

Jurors also experienced a show-and-tell of valuables from the Menendez home. Gold bars investigators seized were passed around the jury (one juror mouthed a “wow” upon holding the gold).