Over the past few weeks, many questions have been raised about the relationship between NJ Sen. Bob Menendez and Florida eye doctor Salomon Melgen. To date, reporters have focused on alleged sex parties with prostitutes in the Dominican Republic. Whether or not the allegations concerning prostitution are true, Sen. Menendez appears to have used his official position to press an issue with government officials on which Melgen had a financial interest.
Chronology of the Melgen-Menendez Role in the Dominican Port Deal:
August, 2011 - Dr. Salomon Melgen purchases a 50% interest in ICSSI for $100,000 through his company Boarder Support Services, LLC. The only significant asset of ICSSI–the company in which he now owns a half interest–is a disputed and unimplemented concessionary port contract that could be worth $500 million over ten years, but it has been languishing in litigation for seven years, with no end in sight.
December, 2011 – Dominican President Leonel Fernández, a friend of Melgen’s who has attended at least one event at Melgen’s Dominican mansion, creates a commission designed to circumvent the stalled ICSSI legal case. He stacks the commission with Melgen allies, including the former legal counsel for ICSSI.
May 20, 2012 – Danilo Medina is elected President of the Dominican Republic. He is a member of the same party as his predecessor, Leonel Fernández. Fernández’s wife wins election as Medina’s Vice-President.
July 31, 2012 – United States Senator Robert Menendez, a close friend of Dr. Melgen, publicly pressures State Department officials at a hearing of a Senate Foreign Relations subcommittee he chairs to “send a message” to the Dominican Republic that the country must not violate contracts with companies that are American owned.
August 15, 2012 – On the last day of his term, the commission established by Dominican Republic President Fernández issues a report with recommendations to him that are highly favorable to Melgen’s ICSSI. It recommends removing the implementation of the contract from the Customs Directorate, which opposes it, to the Dominican Port Authority, which presumably is more inclined to implement the ICSSI contract. The commission also rejects the Customs Directorate’s recommendation that the entire contract be re-opened for competitive bidding.
August 16, 2012 – Danilo Medina is inaugurated as President of the Dominican Republic, replacing Leonel Fernández. Medina must now decide whether to accept the recommendations of his predecessor’s commission to force implementation of the ICSSI contract or wait for the court case to be resolved.
February 1, 2013 – Senator Robert Menendez becomes Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
February 5, 2013 - The New York Times reports that a lawyer for Melgen’s security company claims that Pedro Pablo Permuy, a former senior aide to Senator Robert Menendez, will run the operations of the firm’s Dominican port security contract. In an email to the Times, Permuy denies that he is either an employee or a board member of Melgen’s security company. He does not comment on whether he has been paid by Melgen as a consultant. A spokesman for Senator Menendez claims the senator had no knowledge of Permuy’s involvement with Melgen’s company prior to this week.