Wael Hana, Indicted With Menendez, Is Arrested at JFK Airport


Wael Hana, an Egyptian American businessman who prosecutors say was the linchpin of a corrupt scheme that funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes to Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, was arrested at Kennedy International Airport Tuesday morning after he voluntarily flew to the United States from Egypt to face federal charges in Manhattan, his lawyer said.

Mr. Hana pleaded not guilty late Tuesday afternoon before a federal magistrate judge, who ordered him released on a $5 million personal recognizance bond and strict conditions, including the surrender of his passport and the wearing of a GPS monitoring device.

Mr. Hana, according to a federal indictment released on Friday, helped facilitate meetings and dinners between Mr. Menendez; his wife, Nadine Menendez; and Egyptian military and intelligence officials in a secret effort to use the senator’s power to increase U.S. aid to Egypt.

Mr. Menendez, a Democrat who until Friday was the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, held sway over military sales, financing and other aid. In one text message to an Egyptian general, Mr. Hana referred to the senator as “our man.”

The senator, Ms. Menendez, Mr. Hana and two other businessmen were each charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud. Mr. Menendez and his wife were also charged with conspiracy to commit extortion under the color of official right, meaning that they used the senator’s official position to force someone to give them something of value.

Mr. Menendez has maintained his innocence, saying Friday that prosecutors “wrote these charges as they wanted; the facts are not as presented.” At a news conference on Monday, he said he had no intention of bowing to calls for his resignation.

Mr. Menendez, his wife and the two other businessmen — Fred Daibes, a New Jersey real estate developer and fund-raiser for Mr. Menendez; and Jose Uribe, who works in trucking and insurance — are expected to be arraigned in Federal District Court on Wednesday morning.

Mr. Hana, a longtime friend of Ms. Menendez, had founded a business, IS EG Halal, that was the sole certifier of halal meat imported to Egypt, and prosecutors said it became the conduit for a stream of money to the senator.

Mr. Hana was led into the courtroom wearing a light blue button-down shirt, navy blue slacks and black slip-on shoes with a design on top. He sat down next to his lawyer, Lawrence J. Lustberg, and the rest of his legal team. Three prosecutors sat at a table across the aisle.

Mr. Hana flipped through a copy of the indictment on the table before him until the judge, Ona T. Wang, entered the courtroom.

As the judge read through the charges against him, Mr. Hana sat motionless, staring straight ahead, his shoulders heaving as he took rhythmic breaths. His lawyer, Mr. Lustberg, said his client was entering pleas of not guilty.

After the hearing, Mr. Lustberg said Mr. Hana had “voluntarily returned from Egypt to face the charges against him” and was “confident he will be acquitted after a full and fair trial.”

Mr. Hana left the courthouse without comment.

Michael D. Regan contributed reporting.


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