The New Jersey Senator has been formally charged
Bob Menendez AFP

A New Jersey businessman has entered a plea agreement after declaring himself guilty of trying to bribe Senator Bob Menendez. Prosecutors allege he gave Menendez's wife a Mercedez-Benz, according to a report by The Associated Press.

Concretely, Jose Uribe signed a cooperation agreement with prosecutors who pressed seven charges against him, including conspiracy to commit bribery, honest services wire fraud, obstruction of justice and tax evasion.

The indictment, the outlet added, says Menendez helped Uribe by trying to persuade prosecutors to go easy on a business associate of his who was the subject of a criminal investigation.

Uribe is one of the three businessmen charged in the corruption case against the senator and his wife, Nadine, who also stand accused of taking bribes in exchange for performing "a series of acts on behalf of Egypt, including on behalf of Egyptian Military and intelligence officials".

The indictment alleges that Menendez also received bribes in the form of gold bars, cash and luxury vehicles. In January, he was also accused of introducing a member of the Qatari royal family member and prominent figure in the country's investment fund to Fred Daibes, a New Jersey businessman, before the company invested millions in his real estate project.

Similarly to the accusations regarding his actions as a foreign agent on behalf of Egypt, Menendez accepted cash and gold bars in exchange for introducing the member of the Qatari royal family to Daibes.

In mid February, a set of court papers showed that prosecutors alleged that Nadine Menendez, the senator's wife, told a "a false cover story" to a jeweler, "claiming that the gold had come from her deceased mother." A staffer for Bob Menendez gave a similar explanation.

However, the FBI has said that at least some of the gold bars were bribe payments to the senator. They were allegedly given by Fred Daibes, a New Jersey developer who wanted Menendez to pressure the state's attorney's office to be lenient in the context of a bank fraud case. Two of the gold bars Menendez had in his house had previously belonged to Daibes.

Menendez, his wife and the two other New Jersey businessmen are scheduled to go on trial in May. In mid January they asked a judge allow them to face separate trials.

Menendez's lawyers said that he "intends to present a defense arguing (in part) that he lacked the requisite knowledge of much of the conduct and statements of his wife, Nadine."

"By this defense, Senator Menendez's legal team may have to argue, in effect, that any unlawful conduct — and we are aware of none —involved the actions of others (including Nadine), not the Senator," reads a passage of the letter submitted by the lawyers.

They added that Menendez would face a "Catch-22" situation, as he would be forced to "make an impossible and prejudicial choice between testifying on his own behalf and exercising his spousal privilege to avoid being converted through cross-examination into a witness against his spouse."

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