Prosecutor ‘pressured’ by Bob Menendez is probed over ‘doing Sam Bankman-Fried a favor’

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Congress is probing whether a former New Jersey attorney general allegedly pressured by Senator Bob Menendez to get a sweetheart deal for an associate may have done a favor for embattled FTX founder Sam Bankman-Fried. Gurbir Grewal, now the head of enforcement for the Securities and Exchange Commission, was New Jersey’s AG when, prosecutors allege, he twice met Menendez to discuss a case involving Jose Uribe. Uribe, a former insurance agent, is now one of the three people accused of bribing Menendez and his wife with cash and gold bars in a bombshell federal indictment revealed last month. In 2019 one of Uribe’s workers and an associate were being investigated by the New Jersey attorney general’s office over insurance fraud claims. Prosecutors say Menendez twice reached out to Grewal to pressure him. Grewal is referred to as “Official-2” in the indictment. The New Jersey Globe first reported Official-2’s identity. The worker was not charged and the associate was offered a no-jail plea deal which prosecutors say was “more favorable” than a deal previously on the table, after Menendez spoke to Grewal. Prosecutors say Grewal did not agree to intervene. In return Uribe gave Arslanian, then the senator’s girlfriend and now his wife, a $60,000 Mercedes convertible, prosecutors say. She needed a new car after losing hers when she killed a pedestrian in Bogota, NJ, in December, 2018 and escaped without charges, a case which is also being re-investigated. Uribe, Arslanian and Menendez also had a champagne dinner to celebrate the non-prosecution and plea deal, prosecutors say. In a separate probe, members of the House Financial Services Committee are investigating whether the timing of Bankman-Fried’s arrest was to stop him testifying to Congress the next day. They have demanded “all letters and communications” between Grewal and others at the SEC with the Department of Justice related to the “timing” of the crypto billionaire’s arrest in the Bahamas on December 12, 2022 — the day before he was scheduled to testify before the Committee. The Republican members’ letter highlights Grewal’s statement at the time that the SEC had authorized separate charges against Bankman-Fried. “The timing of the charges and his arrest raise serious questions about the SEC’s process and cooperation with the Department of Justice,” said the February 2023 Committee letter to the SEC, seeking documents between the SEC and the DOJ between November 2, 2022 to February 9, 2023. Thomas Anderson, a government watchdog and publisher of a Washington DC newsletter, said of the claim that the arrest may have been timed by the SEC and prosecutors: “GOP congressmen have good reason to investigate how the SEC enforcement division worked with the DOJ to arrest Sam Bankman-Fried on the day before he was supposed to give sworn testimony before Congress. “What prosecutor or investigator gives up an opportunity to have the subject of their investigation grilled under oath on international TV?” Bankman-Fried is on trial for fraud in Manhattan federal court after the November 2022 collapse of his FTX cryptocurrency exchange that saw investors lose billions. He denies all charges. Protect Our Future, a super PAC funded primarily by Bankman-Fried doled out $250,000 in 2022 to support Rob Menendez, the senator’s son, who is a New Jersey Democratic congressman. Republicans in the New Jersey Senate have called for an “immediate” inquiry into the relationship between Grewal, his family, and Menendez. “As details about this case unfold, the reported linkage between Menendez and the Grewal family raises serious questions that demand action from the legislature,” said New Jersey Republican Senator Michael Testa. The Grewal family have been generous donors to Menendez, according to the New Jersey Globe, donating $40,000 to the Senator’s campaigns. Grewal’s cousin, Balpreet Grewal-Virk is the vice chair of the Democratic Committee of Bergen County. She and her husband Yogi Virk contributed $19,900 to Menendez’s campaigns and other family members gave a Menendez political action committee an additional $19,000, according to public records. Grewal-Virk was present at the Taj Mahal when Menendez proposed in song to his now-wife in May 2019 on a Congressional trip to India, the New Jersey Globe first reported. She can be seen in the Facebook video of the proposal. Grewal-Virk did not immediately return requests for comment. A lawyer for Menendez did not return a request for comment. A spokesperson for the SEC told The Post that SEC action is “stayed pending resolution” of criminal matters. “The decision to institute an enforcement action was made by the Commission and not any individual member of the staff. As a federal agency, we can’t comment on what campaigns any staff members or their families might have supported.” Last week Menendez, his wife Nadine Menendez and co-accused New Jersey businessman Wael Hana were hit with fresh charges — accused of acting as foreign agents for Egypt. They all deny all charges.

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