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Henry Cuellar indicted in bribery scheme

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Texas Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar and his wife are accused of participating in a year-long $600,000 scheme involving Azerbaijan and a Mexican bank, according to a federal indictment unsealed Friday in Houston. dollar bribery scheme.

According to the 54-page indictment, Mr. Cuellar, 68, and his wife, Imelda, 67, are accused of engaging in bribery and money laundering on behalf of a Mexico City bank and an energy company owned by Azerbaijan.

Mr. Cuellar is also accused of acting as an agent of a foreign entity while serving as a U.S. government official.

Attorneys for the Justice Department’s Criminal Division wrote that payments made between 2014 and 2021 were laundered through “sham consulting contracts,” front companies and shell companies owned by Ms. Cuellar under whom she was “Hardly doing any legal work.”

Cuellar “agreed to influence legislative activity and advise and pressure senior U.S. executive branch officials on measures beneficial to the banks,” prosecutors said.

Cuellar is one of the more conservative Democrats in the House and the only anti-abortion member of his party in the House. The charges are similar to the indictment against New Jersey Democratic Sen. Robert Menendez, who was accused of accepting bribes on behalf of Egyptian businesses.

In a statement before the indictment, Mr. Cuellar maintained his innocence and said he had cleared his wife for her work on the ethics commission. Despite the charges, he vowed to run and win re-election.

“I want to clarify that neither my wife nor I have been charged with these charges,” Mr. Cuellar said. “Everything I did in Congress was to serve the people of South Texas.”

“Before I took any action,” he added, “I proactively sought legal advice from the House Ethics Committee, which gave me more than one written opinion, as well as an additional opinion from a national law firm.”

Cuellar said he tried to meet with federal prosecutors in Washington to explain his side of the story, but they declined to meet.

In 2022, the FBI raided Cuellar’s Laredo home, but he narrowly defeated more progressive challenger Jessica Cisneros in the primary.

Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries, D-N.Y., said Cuellar would resign from the top Democratic post on the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee while he deals with the allegations.

Christie Stephenson, a spokesman for Mr Jeffries, said: “Henry Cuellar has admirably dedicated his career to public service and is a leader of the House Democratic Caucus important member.” Like any American, Congressman Cuellar has the right to appear in court and the presumption of innocence throughout the legal process. “

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