Menendez trial: Former Dept. of Agriculture officials raised warning about halal meat deal

Ted McKinney feared delays, higher prices for beef providers as well Egyptian companies importing meat from the United States.

Chris Keating

Jun 3, 2024, 4:31 PM

Updated 8 days ago

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Jurors in the federal bribery trial of U.S. Sen. Bob Menendez heard more on Monday from a former official with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Ted McKinney raised a red flag about the deal one of the senator’s friends was getting with the country of Egypt to certify halal meat.
McKinney is the former undersecretary for trade and foreign agricultural affairs. He told jurors that he was trying in 2019 to reverse the decision by Egypt to hire ISEG Halal as the only certifier of halal meat into that country.
McKinney testified that ISEG Halal had no experience, so there could be delays and higher prices for Egyptians - which could end Egypt's use of U.S. beef providers.
He sent a letter to Egyptian officials that said, “It is doubtful a single certifier can handle the magnitude of US Halal certification shipped to Egypt. The existing USB allow certifiers meet all Egyptian laws and regulations.”
However, attorneys for Menendez say it’s within Egypt’s right to change certifiers, referring to a letter from Egypt’s Ministry of Agriculture that complimented the Edgewater company when it said, “The government of Egypt is concerned about compliance with halal requirements and ISEG is committed to working with industry to resolve this issue.”
It’s the defense’s attempt to refute the charge that Menendez and wife Nadine Menendez took bribes of cash and gold to help co-defendant Wael Hana get that deal with Egypt.
The feds claim Menendez helped Egypt with millions in military aid as part of the overall arrangement.
After ISEG Halal became the sole certifier of meat into Egypt, beef suppliers in the U.S. soon complained of price gouging by the company.
The price to have their meat certified as halal went up from 1 cent to 10 cents per pound. However, the defense pointed out that the volume of beef exported went up over a three-year period as ISEG Halal took over operations.
Menendez and his wife are both accused in this bribery case. Nadine Menendez will be tried separately because she is dealing with a medical issue. Testimony continues on Tuesday in Manhattan.


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