U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) helped push a port security deal in the Dominican Republic that could be worth hundreds of millions to a company owned by friend and political fundraiser Salomon Melgen, the embattled Florida doctor whose offices were searched by investigators Wednesday, records show.
Melgen, who gave Menendez two free trips to the island nation in 2010, took ownership two years ago in a port security company called ICSSI that was seeking to implement a $500 million dollar contract in the Dominican Republic, the New York Times first reported.
At a Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee hearing on doing business in Latin America on Aug. 1, Menendez pressed administration officials on why they had not pushed for tighter security at Dominican ports, transcripts show.
He referred to Melgen’s company without naming it, saying, “You have another company that has American investors that is seeking to — has a contract, actually, given to it by the, kind of ratified by, the Dominican Congress — to do X-ray or all of the cargo that goes through the ports,” Menendez said.
A spokesman for Menendez said his statement at the public hearing and his later calls to the State Department were routine. He said execution of the contract could help in the fight against the drug trade while also helping an American business.
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