Henry Cuéllar
The Texas Rep. is in hot water following an indictment from the DOJ Reuters

Texas Representative Henry Cuéllar will face an investigation from the House Ethics Committee following his indictment in a federal bribery case.

A panel said it voted unanimously to form a subcommittee to analyze the events, where the lawmaker and his wife stand accused of taking hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from a Mexican bank and two state-run energy companies from Azerbaijan.

It did so citing House rules requiring to establish such a body or explain its decision not to within 30 days of the indictment or charge against a member.

Concretely, the subcommittee will be able to investigate whether Cuéllar "solicited or accepted bribes, gratuities, or improper gifts; acted as a foreign agent; violated federal money laundering laws; misused his official position for private gain; and/or made false statements or omissions on public disclosure statements filed with the House."

Cuéllar again denied any wrongdoing after the announcement, saying that even though he "respects the work of the House Ethics Committee," he is "innocent of these allegations." "Everything I have done in Congress has been to serve the people of South Texas," he added.

However, three different people have already taken plea deals in the context of the case, admitting to helping the Cuéllars in the bribery schemes. One of them is Irada Akhoundova, a woman from Houston who admitted to facilitating a $60,000 payment to Imelda Cuéllar.

She said she unlawfully acted as an agent of the Azerbaijani government and a state-run oil company, actions that represent a violation of the Foreign Agents Registration Act.

Akhoundova served as the president of the Houston-Baku Sister City Association, a nonprofit built to strengthen the ties between the American city and the capital of Azerbaijan. She was also the director of a U.S. affiliate of an Azerbaijani company between 2014 and 2017.

Cuéllar allegedly agreed to influence legislation favorable to the former Soviet republic and deliver a friendly speech on the House floor in exchange for the payments. He was at one point the co-chair of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus and also traveled to the country in 2013.

The other two people who took guilty pleas are political consultants who admitted to being involved in the payments from Banco Azteca, the other entity accused of bribing Cuéllar. Between the both, the lawmaker allegedly took roughly $600,000.

In this case, Cuéllar allegedly took money from the bank in exchange for influencing the Department of Treasury to work around an anti money laundering policy that went against the bank's interests.

The two consultants, Colin Strother and Florencio Rendon, allegedly helped him with the payments. They face up to 20 years in prison and six-figure fines for their actions, but hope to get leniency in exchange for their cooperation.

Cuéllar has so far refused to resign from his post and said he will continue doing his job, although he did step down from his only committee assignment. Both Cuéllar and his wife Imelda were released on $100,000 bail each. Their trial is set to start this summer, but it could be delayed as a result of pre-trial legal disputes.

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