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US congressman accused of taking bribes from Azerbaijan and Mexico

Another US congressman has been charged in a foreign bribery case.

Federal prosecutors on Friday unsealed an indictment against Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, and his wife, alleging that the couple accepted $600,000 in bribes from an Azerbaijani-run oil company and a bank headquartered in Mexico.

“In exchange for the bribes paid by the Azerbaijani oil and gas company, Congressman Cuellar allegedly agreed to use his office to influence U.S. foreign policy in favor of Azerbaijan,” the Justice Department said in a statement.

The DOJ also alleges that, in exchange for the bribes paid by the Mexican bank, Mr. Cuellar agreed “to influence legislative activity and to advise and pressure senior U.S. Executive Branch officials regarding actions favorable for the bank.”

The indictment comes after Senator Bob Menendez, also a Democrat and former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, was indicted in a corruption case involving Egypt and Qatar.

Coincidentally, Mr. Menendez had recently spearheaded Washington’s efforts to cut off aid to Baku during the siege of Nagorno-Karabakh late last year.

What is US Senator Bob Menendez accused of in Egypt?

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The UN Security Council discussed Azerbaijan’s blockade of the territory in August, after a former International Criminal Court prosecutor said the blockade could amount to a “genocide” against Armenians.

Mr. Cuellar said in a statement Friday that he and his wife, Imelda Cuellar, “are innocent of these allegations.”

“Everything I did in Congress was to serve the people of South Texas,” Cuellar said.

“Before taking action, I proactively sought legal advice from the House Ethics Committee, which provided me with more than one written opinion, along with an additional opinion from a national law firm.”

The Federal Bureau of Investigation raided Cuellar’s home and campaign office in 2022.

Mr. Cuellar served in Congress for more than two decades and has criticized the more left-wing wing of the Democratic party.

A rare anti-abortion Democrat, he has also been more conservative on issues surrounding the southern border with Mexico, which his district is close to.

He joined a group of moderate Democrats and Republicans this week in condemning Colombia’s severing of ties with Israel and accused President Gustavo Petro of anti-Semitism.

Updated: May 3, 2024, 7:34 PM