Third Person Pleads Guilty in Henry Cuellar Bribery, Money Laundering Investigation

Prosecutors are accusing the Texas Democrat and his wife of participating in bribery, unlawful foreign influence, and money laundering for accepting $600,000 in bribes from Azerbaijan’s state-run oil company and a bank headquartered in Mexico.

AP/Mark Schiefelbein, file
Representative Henry Cuellar on Capitol Hill, April 10, 2024. AP/Mark Schiefelbein, file

A third person has pleaded guilty in an investigation into Democratic Representative Henry Cuellar and his wife, Imelda Cuellar, for allegedly accepting $600,000 in bribes and acting as a foreign agent. 

A 67-year-old woman from Houston, Irada Akhoundova, pleaded guilty to acting as an agent of the Azerbaijani government and its state-owned oil and gas company, the San Antonio Express-News reports, and she admitted to coordinating a $60,000 payment to Ms. Cuellar. 

Earlier this month, the Justice Department unsealed an indictment accusing the powerful Texas Democrat and his wife of participating in bribery, unlawful foreign influence, and money laundering for accepting $600,000 in bribes from two foreign entities — a bank headquartered in Mexico and Azerbaijan’s state-run oil company. 

Mr. Cuellar’s former campaign manager and a consultant were the first two individuals to plead guilty to helping the Cuellars secure bribes from the Mexican bank.

The Justice Department alleges the bribes took place from at least December 2014 to November 2021, as Mr. Cuellar allegedly agreed to “use his office to influence U.S. foreign policy in favor of Azerbaijan” and to influence legislative activity to benefit the Mexican bank. 

Mr. Cuellar has maintained his innocence and said he does not plan to step down from his position. If convicted, the couple faces more than 200 years in prison.  

“Congressman Cuellar’s actions in this matter — and always — were lawful, transparent and in the best interests of the United States, and they were entirely consistent with the actions of many of his colleagues,” Mr. Cuellar’s attorney, Chris Floor, said in a statement reported by the Associated Press. 

“All I’ve done is to serve my district,” Mr. Cuellar told reporters last week, adding that he did not take bribes.Mr. Cuellar has vowed to run for re-election despite the charges, as the Sun reported, and he is known as somewhat of an outlier in his party on abortion and border issues.

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