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US Senator Bob Menendez charged with corruption

A top US senator, Bob Menendez, has been charged with corruption.

The Democrat from New Jersey is accused of using his influence to illegally benefit a Florida eye doctor, who he admits is a long-time friend.

He is charged with 14 counts including bribery and conspiracy, but insists he did nothing wrong.

Mr Menendez is the top Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee and an outspoken critic of President Obama’s policies relating to Iran and Cuba.

The 14 counts include conspiracy and making false statements, as well as eight counts of bribery.

He is considered one of the most influential Hispanic American lawmakers in Congress, and is the lead author of legislation that would tighten sanctions imposed against Iran.

 

Law enforcement agents raid the office of Dr Salomon Melgen in West Palm Beach, Florida on 30 January 2013
Law enforcement agents raided the office of Dr Salomon Melgen in West Palm Beach, Florida

 

The multi-year investigation first came to light in 2013, when federal authorities raided the office of Dr Salomon Melgan – who was also indicted.

Their investigation focused on whether Mr Menendez used his office to advocate in favour of Dr Melgan including by intervening in a Medicare billing dispute.

Dr Melgan attracted more attention last year when government data revealed that he had received more money from Medicare reimbursements in 2012 than any other doctor in the United States.

He donated large sums of money to Mr Menendez’s re-election campaign.

“We celebrated holidays together,” he once told journalists. “We have been there for family weddings and sad times like funerals and have given each other birthday, holiday and wedding presents, just as friends do.”

 

Obama campaigned for Menendez when a senator in 2006
Obama campaigned for Menendez when a senator in 2006

 

Mr Menendez has admitted to taking multiple trips to the Dominican Republic on the doctor’s private jet and initially failed to properly pay for the trips. In 2013, he reimbursed Dr Melgan for two of the flights.

Later, his office admitted to another flight on the jet – from Florida to New Jersey in 2011 – and said that the senator had repaid Dr Melgan for it.

Mr Menendez, 61, has served in the Senate since 2006, and was in the House of Representatives for more than a decade before that.

The senator is expected to make a statement later.

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