A key scheme involved in the bribery case against Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J., had angered the Agriculture Department but resulted in associates of the couple getting a lucrative monopoly on halal certification for U.S. beef exports to Egypt.

Menendez stepped down as chairman of the Senate Finance Committee after he and his wife, Nadine Arslanian Menendez, were indicted Friday on charges of bribery, fraud and extortion. 

As Foreign Relations chairman Menendez had influence over U.S. military aid to Egypt and received cash, gold, cars and other valuables in exchange for deals that benefitted the Egyptian government and associates of Menendez, according to the federal indictment filed with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

One of those associates was Wael Hana, who owned the company IS EG Halal, which was given exclusive rights to provide halal certification for all U.S. beef exports to Egypt, despite USDA objections.

The Cairo office of USDA’s Foreign Agricultural Service published a report in May of 2019, saying that the Egyptian Veterinary Service issued a surprise ruling that named IS EG Halal as the only approved certifier while suspending or rejecting seven others.

The FAS office said in the 2019 report that it “is not aware that the company has prior experience in halal certification. The firm is not known to have a preexisting relationship with the U.S. beef industry or Islamic organizations in the United States. Exporters interested in shipping beef to Egypt are advised to contact IS EG Halal Certified directly to clarify certification procedures.”

Hana, according to the indictment, used IS EG Halal, to provide “bribe payments he had promised to Robert Menendez, the defendant, through Nadine Menedez,” who had set up her own company to receive bribery payments, according to the indictment.

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A spokesperson for Menendez didn't immediately respond to a request for comment. 

“The monopoly also resulted in increased costs for various U.S. meat suppliers and others,” the indictment said. “As a result, in or about April and May 2019, multiple U.S. Government officials from the (USDA) contacted the government of Egypt objecting to and seeking reconsideration of its grant of monopoly rights to IS EG Halal, and the USDA prepared a public report regarding the increased cost for halal certification and the likely disruption to the U.S. market caused by the new monopoly.”

Menendez is also accused of leaning on USDA officials to stop complaining about the monopoly deal for IS EG Halal.

USDA officials declined to comment. Justice Department officials were not available for immediate comment.

All beef exports to Egypt must be certified as halal and the U.S. ships a lot. The U.S. exported about $90 million worth of beef variety meat to Egypt in 2022, up from $69 million in 2021, according to USDA data.

“Bob Menendez has been a dedicated public servant and is always fighting hard for the people of New Jersey. He has a right to due process and a fair trial,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Friday. “Senator Menendez has rightly decided to step down temporarily from his position as Chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee until the matter has been resolved.”