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New York Post
Businessman at center of FBI’s Sen. Bob Menendez probe went from foreclosure to luxury after meeting Democrat
By Isabel Vincent,
New Jersey businessman Wael Hana was struggling under a pile of debt at the end of 2018 when his friend became US Sen. Bob Menendez’s new girlfriend in a whirlwind romance.
His house had been seized in foreclosure and he had been sued for passing bad checks.
But within months of Menendez (D-NJ) and Nadine Arslanian becoming a couple, her friend Hana moved into a “majestic” apartment.
After a meeting at the senator’s office with Egyptian diplomats which Arslanian also attended, Hana, a Christian, became the only person in the world allowed to import halal meat to the country.
Now the FBI is probing whether Menendez and Arslanian, 56, took gifts including a vehicle and a Washington, DC, apartment from Hana or his IS EG Halal company, according to reports.
The sprawling corruption probe is the second FBI investigation into Menendez. He was indicted in 2015 on charges that he took lavish bribes from Palm Beach ophthalmologist Dr. Salomon Melgen in return for favors including getting visas for the man’s parade of younger girlfriends.
His first trial ended in a mistrial , then prosecutors dropped charges rather than going to retrial when the Supreme Court narrowed the definition of corruption.
Arslanian sold up to $400,000 in gold bars in 2022, The Post reported last week. She too had seen her life turn around after meeting Menendez: Before they became a couple, she had been facing foreclosure on her Bergen County home — but after they met, she set up a consulting company.
Menendez’s spokeswoman declined to comment. She told The Post last week: “As stated previously, the Senator remains confident this matter will be successfully resolved.”
Hana, 39, was born in Egypt and had come to make his fortune in New Jersey, but it had been a rocky path, with a $38,000 judgment for passing bad checks, a legal dispute over a bid to export luxury cars to China, then losing his home in Bayonne to foreclosure in early 2019.
Late in 2018, his friend Arslanian, a divorced mother of two, started a relationship with the Democratic senior senator from New Jersey; the couple later told the New York Times they met at an IHOP and she immediately found him “hot.”
And at the same time as the 69-year-old senator’s whirlwind romance unfolded, Hana experienced a remarkable change in fortune.
In April 2019, he was named Egypt’s sole permitted importer of halal meat and other products — a field he had no experience in but which meant he controlled a market of 90 million Egyptian Muslims.
That wasn’t all: Hana became a military contractor, forging agreements with the Egyptian Ministry of Defense, according to legal papers.
“Everyone was taken by surprise,” said Timothy Hyatt, vice president of Islamic Services of America.
“There were no ifs, ands or buts about it. Once IS EG was put in charge, there was nothing the American certifiers could do.”
In June 2019, in a sign of his turnaround, Hana moved into a “majestic” building with Italian mosaic floors and marble columns overlooking the Hudson River in Edgewater, NJ — a complex owned by the government of Egypt, according to public records.
Soon, Hana was traveling around the world, setting up high-level meetings with diplomats and the CEOs of some of the world’s biggest beef exporters, and living like a wealthy jetsetter. Pictures show him in the Middle East, Paraguay, Uruguay and Mexico.
But in November 2019, he was planning a trip to India — a month after a trip Menendez took as part of a congressional delegation on which he proposed to Arslanian in song in front of the Taj Mahal — when the FBI searched his offices and his apartment.
They seized multiple cellphones, computers, cash and gold jewelry. Hana sued the government for their return, saying they took four watches, including two Rolexes that he said “I got as gifts,” a gold chain he bought in Italy and earrings worth $15,000 that he had designed for his mother at a friend’s factory in Italy, according to court papers.
Among the items were nearly $6,000 in cash and a “‘dark green substance’ with a ‘gold cigarette,'” according to court papers.
Federal agents also seized his passport. “I had hoped and planned to travel to India at the end of last year as well, in order to establish a new branch of the company,” said Hana in the January 2020 federal filing.
“My travel frequently requires me to meet with government officials across the world, as they often will seek to trade halal certified exports as a means of increasing their trade with Egypt.
“Ultimately I plan to establish IS EG Halal branches across the world and will need to travel extensively to accomplish that goal.”
In the lawsuit demanding his property back, Hana testified that his company was awarded the halal certification from the Egyptian Ministry of Agriculture in order to remove the import industry from the control of the Muslim Brotherhood, a group the Egyptian government considers terrorist.
“They gave me the certification because they know that I am not associated with the Muslim Brotherhood and because they trust my work,” he said.
He testified that another company he controls, Loundes Express Group, ships goods to Egypt for its government, and said in a footnote to his legal filing that he was in negotiations with a New York law firm to establish a freight forwarding license company “which will be in charge of shipping everything sold by the United States Army to the Egyptian Army.”
Hana eventually got back the property federal authorities had seized, a source familiar with the situation told The Post.
The spokeswoman for Hana said that allegations about “cars, apartments, cash and jewelry being provided by anyone associated with IS EG Halal” to Menendez or his wife “are totally without basis.”
“IS EG Halal was awarded its halal certification contract with Egypt without any assistance whatsoever from Senator Menendez or any other US public official,” she said.
“Senator Menendez never helped Mr. Hana with any contract whatsoever.”
Hana’s upscale home in Edgewater was developed by another person caught up in the sprawling corruption probe into Menendez — the senator’s longtime friend and donor Fred Daibes.
Hana also shares an office with Daibes at a business complex he developed and owns at 125 River Road in Edgewater. IS EG Halal Certification is headquartered there.
Prosecutors investigating Menendez and his wife subpoenaed Daibes earlier this year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Daibes also bought the debts owed in the check-cashing suits against Hana.
Daibes was previously indicted on multiple counts in 2018 for a conspiracy to circumvent lending limits by a bank he founded. He pleaded guilty last year to one count, and is awaiting sentencing, which has been rescheduled four times, according to court records.