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US senator pleads not guilty to new charge of acting as agent of Egypt

NEW YORK: United States Senator Robert Menendez entered a not guilty plea in a New York court on Monday (Oct 23) to a new charge alleging that the Democratic lawmaker conspired to act as an agent of the Egyptian government when he chaired the Senate foreign relations committee.

Menendez, who faces corruption-related charges along with his wife and three other people, had already been indicted on charges of taking bribes and influence peddling for the benefit of Egypt, and had already pleaded not guilty at the end of September.

In a newer charge, federal prosecutors accused Menendez of conspiracy to act as an agent of a foreign government – Egypt – to which he again pleaded not guilty, a spokesman for the US attorney’s office in Manhattan said.

Menendez has rejected calls for his resignation, but last month relinquished his chairmanship of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

He is accused of accepting hundreds of thousands of dollars in bribes from three residents of his home state of New Jersey between 2018 and 2022, and of having used his “power and influence to protect, to enrich those businessmen and to benefit the government of Egypt”.

The latest charge, Menendez said in a statement on Monday, “flies in the face of my long record of standing up for human rights and democracy in Egypt … Anyone who knows my record, knows this latest charge is as outrageous as it is absurd”.

Manhattan federal prosecutor Damian Williams detailed the discovery during a search of Menendez’s home of bundles of cash stuffed in his jacket pockets, three kilos of gold bars and a luxury car, all elements “that were part of the fraud”.

The 69-year-old veteran Democrat, whose parents immigrated to the US from Cuba, denied last month that he had committed any crimes.

“For 30 years, I have withdrawn thousands of dollars in cash from my personal savings account, which I have kept for emergencies and because of the history of my family facing confiscation in Cuba,” Menendez said.

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