Wael Hana, an alleged co-conspirator indicted in a bribery scheme with New Jersey Democratic Sen. Bob Menendez, pleaded not guilty and was released on bail in federal court Tuesday.
Hana was arrested Tuesday morning at John F. Kennedy International Airport upon his return from Egypt, his attorney Larry Lustberg told reporters after the hearing. His wife and children remain in Egypt where they all live much of the year. Hana returned to the US to face the charges, Lustberg said.
Hana was charged in an indictment last week with Menendez and others and faces one count of conspiracy to commit bribery and one count of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, which carry maximum prison sentences of five and 20 years respectively.
Prosecutors allege that he facilitated an agreement to provide bribes to the senator and his now-wife in exchange for the senator’s influence in matters benefiting himself, the Egyptian government and others. The couple has denied wrongdoing.
Hana is being released on a $5 million personal recognizance bond and surrendered his travel documents. He’s also subject to GPS location monitoring and a curfew requiring him to be at his New Jersey home from 8 p.m. to 8 a.m.
All of his shares in his company Capital Management EG will also be held as collateral for his release. Lustberg said Hana will try to run his halal business but whether the business will survive remains to be seen.
Hana is also banned from contact with co-defendants and case witnesses without attorneys present.
Prosecutors allege Menendez, who held significant influence as the chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, agreed and sought to pressure a senior official at the US Department of Agriculture in an effort to protect a business monopoly granted to Hana by Egypt.
The Department of Agriculture in 2019 had contacted Egypt to object to it giving Menendez’s contact, Hana, monopoly rights related to supplying halal meat to the US.
“When Official-1 attempted to explain why the monopoly was detrimental to U.S. interests, MENENDEZ reiterated his demand, in sum and substance, that the USDA stop interfering with IS EG Halal’s monopoly. Official-1 did not accede to MENENDEZ’s demand, but IS EG Halal nevertheless kept its monopoly,” the indictment says.
According to the indictment, the senator’s wife, Nadine, facilitated meetings with Hana and Egyptian officials requesting military sales and financing.
Lustberg said Hana has been friends with Nadine Menendez for many years, long before she began dating the senator in 2018. The attorney also said he wouldn’t consider the New Jersey Democrat to be a friend of Hana and said he’s unaware if Hana has any connections with Egyptian intelligence.
The Egyptian businessman is due back in Manhattan federal court October 2.
This story has been updated with additional information.