Congressman Cuellar Indicted on Bribery Charges

Texas Democrat and his wife accused of improper ties with Azerbaijan officials
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted May 3, 2024 1:47 PM CDT
Congressman Cuellar Indicted on Bribery Charges
Rep. Henry Cuellar, D-Texas, is seen on Capitol Hill on April 10 in Washington.   (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein, File)

Democratic Rep. Henry Cuellar of Texas and his wife were indicted on conspiracy and bribery charges and taken into custody Friday in connection with a federal probe into ties between American business leaders and the former Soviet republic of Azerbaijan, per the AP. From 2014 to 2021, Cuellar and his wife accepted nearly $600,000 in bribes from an Azerbaijan-controlled energy company and a bank in Mexico, and in exchange, Cuellar agreed to advance the interests of the country and the bank in the US, according to the indictment. The Department of Justice said the couple surrendered to authorities on Friday.

  • Example: Among other things, Cuellar agreed to influence legislation favorable to Azerbaijan and deliver a pro-Azerbaijan speech on the floor of the House, the indictment states.
  • Denial: Cuellar released a statement Friday declaring innocence. "Everything I have done in Congress has been to serve the people of South Texas," he said. "Before I took action, I proactively sought legal advice from the House Ethics Committee, who gave me more than one written opinion, along with an additional opinion from a national law firm. Furthermore, we requested a meeting with the ... prosecutors to explain the facts and they refused to discuss the case with us or hear our side."
  • Money: The payments to the couple went through a Texas-based shell company owned by Imelda Cuellar and two of the couple's children, according to the indictment. That company received payments from the Azerbaijan energy company of $25,000 per month under a "sham contract," purportedly in exchange for unspecified strategic consulting and advising services. "In reality, the contract was a sham used to disguise and legitimate the corrupt agreement between Henry Cuellar and the government of Azerbaijan," the indictment states.
  • A search: The FBI searched the congressman's house in the border city of Laredo in 2022, and Cuellar's attorney at that time said Cuellar was not the target of that investigation. That search was part of a broader investigation related to Azerbaijan that saw FBI agents serve a raft of subpoenas and conduct interviews in DC and Texas.

(More Henry Cuellar stories.)

Get breaking news in your inbox.
What you need to know, as soon as we know it.
Sign up
Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.