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New era | US Congressman Henry Cuellar is accused of bribery and money laundering

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Henry Cuellar | Wikipedia

Federal prosecutors on Friday charged a U.S. congressman with bribery and money laundering in connection with a bank in Mexico and an Azerbaijan-owned energy company.

Henry Cuellar, a Texas Democrat, accepted about $600,000 in exchange for representing the interests of the bank and the former Soviet republic for seven years through at least November 2021, the indictment said.

“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 Department of Justice (DOJ) said in a statement.

“In exchange for the bribes paid by the Mexican bank, Congressman Cuellar allegedly agreed to influence legislative activities and advise and pressure high-ranking U.S. executive branch officials on actions favorable to the bank.”

The DOJ alleges the bribes were laundered through shell companies owned by the 68-year-old congressman’s wife, Imelda Cuellar, who was indicted along with him.

The couple surrendered to authorities on Friday and were released on bail.

Each faces more than a dozen charges — ranging from bribery and conspiracy to committing bank fraud and money laundering — and could carry prison sentences of decades if convicted.

Cuellar, who represents a part of Texas stretching from San Antonio to the border with Mexico, released a statement denying any wrongdoing by the couple and said it would not prevent him from running for re-election.

“The actions I took in Congress were consistent with the actions of many of my colleagues and in the best interest of the American people,” he said.

FBI agents raided Cuellar’s home and campaign office in 2022 as part of an investigation into ties between oil-rich Azerbaijan and a group of American businessmen.

The centrist — one of the few anti-abortion Democrats in Congress — did not accept a progressive rival’s challenge for re-election even after the scandal broke.

House Democratic Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries said Cuellar “is entitled to his day in court and to the presumption of innocence” but would resign from a position on the top subcommittee.