Dem Rep Cuellar Charged With Accepting Foreign Bribes

Rep. Henry Cuellar (Getty Images)
May 3, 2024

Rep. Henry Cuellar (D,. Texas) and his wife Imelda have been charged with accepting and laundering more than half a million dollars in foreign bribes, according to an indictment released by the Department of Justice on Friday.

Cuellar and his wife allegedly pocketed "at least $598,000 in bribes from two foreign entities": an oil and gas company controlled by the Azerbaijani government and a bank headquartered in Mexico City.

The payments were then allegedly laundered "through a series of front companies and middlemen into shell companies owned by Imelda Cuellar, who performed little to no legitimate work under [sham consulting] contracts."

Federal prosecutors claim that the Democratic congressman in return for the bribes agreed to use "the power and prestige of his office to advance [the two companies’] interests in the United States." Cuellar allegedly promised to shift U.S. foreign policy in Azerbaijan’s favor, while pledging to alter federal regulations of the financial sector to benefit the Mexican bank and its affiliates.

Cuellar on Friday denied any wrongdoing and appeared in a Houston court alongside his wife. "I want to be clear that both my wife and I are innocent of these allegations. Everything I have done in Congress has been to serve the people of South Texas," Cuellar said in a statement.

"Imelda and I have been married for 32 years," the Texas Democrat added. "On top of being an amazing wife and mother, she’s an accomplished businesswoman with two degrees. She spent her career working with banking, tax, and consulting. The allegation that she is anything but qualified and hard working is both wrong and offensive."

Cuellar’s home and campaign office were raided in January 2022 by federal agents during an investigation into Azerbaijan’s influence in the United States, although it is not yet clear whether the indictment is related to the raid.

"Henry Cuellar does not put Texas first; he puts himself first," said Delanie Bomar, a spokeswoman for the National Republican Congressional Committee. "If his colleagues truly believe in putting ‘people over politics,’ they will call on him to resign. If not—they are hypocrites whose statements about public service aren’t worth the paper they’re written on."

Cuellar is not the first Democratic official to have faced indictment this year on bribery charges. Sen. Bob Menendez (D., N.J.) and his wife Nadine have been accused of giving political favors to the Egyptian government and three businessmen in exchange for nearly half a million in cash and gold bars worth around $100,000.

The New Jersey senator’s lawyers on Wednesday said the senator hoarded 13 gold bars and around $480,000 in cash at home due to longstanding and untreated trauma from his family’s experience as Cuban refugees and his father’s suicide.

Published under: Henry Cuellar , Indictment