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Democratic senator says ‘dazzling’ wife hid $400,000 stash of gold bars and cash in his home

A US senator on trial for bribery and corruption was “dazzled” by his tall wife and “kept in the dark” about gold bars stashed all over their house, his lawyers have argued, as they blamed her for an alleged cash-for-influence scheme to benefit foreign governments.

Bob Menendez, a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, is on trial for a string of charges connected to allegations that he “sold his office” and took bribes.

The Democratic senator is accused of bribery, fraud, extortion, obstruction of justice and acting as a foreign agent of Egypt, after $400,000 (£316,000) in cash and a stash of gold bars were discovered at his home.

On Wednesday, Mr Menendez’s defence lawyers blamed his wife, Nadine Menendez, who they said was “dazzling” and had kept financial secrets from him, including the alleged bribery payments.#

Bob Menendez is a former chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee – Andrew Kelly/REUTERS

Mrs Menendez is also accused of acting as a “go-between” in the alleged scheme, and will stand trial herself on 15 of the 16 charges faced by her husband after she has recovered from recent surgery.

The tall, glamorous 56-year-old has previously appeared partying with reality stars on The Real Housewives of New Jersey.

Her husband’s lawyer claimed she had acted without his knowledge in soliciting payments from others, including three businessmen.

“She kept him in the dark about what she was asking others to give her,” Avi Weitzman, the defence lawyer, said, claiming that she had run into financial trouble he did not know about.

Avi Weitzman, right, Mr Menendez's defence lawyer, claimed that Nadine Menendez had run into financial trouble

Avi Weitzman, right, Mr Menendez’s defence lawyer, claimed that Nadine Menendez had run into financial trouble – Elizabeth Williams/AP

“She wasn’t going to let Bob know that she had financial problems,” he said, adding: “Nadine was dazzling to Bob.”

“The government’s allegations that the senator sold his office and his loyalty to this country are outrageously false,” Mr Weitzman said. “Bob was doing his job, and he was doing it right.”

Lara Pomerantz, a prosecution lawyer, told the jury on Wednesday that Mrs Menendez did play a central role in her husband’s corruption, but said he hid behind her while using her as a conduit to the businessmen who delivered bribes.

“He was careful not to send too many texts,” she said. “He used Nadine as his go-between to deliver messages to and from the people paying bribes.”

On Wednesday, Mr Menendez announced that his wife was being treated for stage-three breast cancer.

“We are of course concerned about the seriousness and advanced stage of the disease,” he said.

“We hope and pray for the best results.”

Mr and Mrs Menendez both deny the charges. The trial continues.

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