Four bars of solid gold — two discovered by FBI agents at the senator’s home, and two his wife Nadine reportedly took to a jeweler to sell — have been identified as the same gold bars stolen from and recovered by New Jersey businessman Fred Daibes in 2013, according to NBC News.
That’s significant, because Mr Daibes was accused by the Department of Justice earlier this year of bribing the senator to install a US attorney who would supposedly have been inclined to scale back a separate investigation into Mr Daibes for bank fraud. The gold bars in question have unique serial numbers which NBC reporters matched up to the ones seized by the Justice Department in its search of Mr Menendez’s home; they were valued at more than $100,000 at the time.
In addition to the gold, investigators also seized nearly half a million dollars in cash from the senator’s home. He has maintained that he keeps large cash reserves as a matter of personal policy stemming from his family’s persecution in pre-communist Cuba.
The senator, a Democrat who previously chaired the Foreign Relations Committee before being required to step down amid the investigation, is also accused of using his position to benefit the government of Egypt in exchange for other bribes. He has denied his guilt relating to all of the allegations. Most Democrats in the Senate (and most Republicans as well) are publicly reserving judgment until the case is concluded, but he has found an enemy in Pennsylvania Sen John Fetterman, who has called for his resignation and been unrelenting in his criticism.
“I am confident that this matter will be successfully resolved once all of the facts are presented and my fellow New Jerseyans will see this for what it is,” the senator said in September.
Mr Menendez and his wife face three felony counts; Mr Dabies is charged with two. Following the indictment of the senator, a judge tossed out his plea deal in that bank fraud case dating back to 2018, and Mr Daibes subsequently withdrew a guilty plea.
In a statement to NBC regarding the revelation about the serial numbers matching up on the gold bars once owned by Mr Daibes, the senator responded that he would “not be commenting on anonymous media leaks designed to prejudice his right to a fair trial. He looks forward to addressing the government’s claims in court, based on a complete record of the evidence.”
Up for re-election next year, Mr Menendez was previously a shoo-in for another term. Now, he will face a potentially vicious primary battle to protect his seat, which is likely to remain in Democratic hands next fall. Among his announced opponents are Tammy Murphy, wife of Governor Phil Murphy, and Congressman Andy Kim.