The indictment of U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar (D-TX) and his wife, Imelda, on charges of accepting bribes has been announced by the Department of Justice. Cuellar, who represents Texas 28th Congressional District, has held office since 2005. The indictments were issued more than two years after agents from the Federal Bureau of Investigation conducted a search warrant on Cuellar’s Laredo home. DOJ officials have stated that the congressman and his wife are accused of accepting nearly $600,000 in bribes from an energy company in Azerbaijan. Cuellar and his wife appeared before Magistrate Judge Dena Palermo in Houston.

Prosecutors allege that the couple accepted the bribes from the energy company, which is controlled by the Government of Azerbaijan, as well as a bank located in Mexico City. The payments were allegedly laundered through sham consulting contracts. According to prosecutors, the congressman then used his influence to advance the interests of the energy company in U.S. foreign policy and to exert pressure on U.S. Executive Branch officials to benefit the bank.

In January 2022, federal authorities raided Cuellar’s home on Estate Drive in Laredo. Cuellar’s Office confirmed the execution of the search warrant and stated that the congressman would fully cooperate with any investigation. Cuellar’s Press Secretary Dana Yougentob emphasized his commitment to upholding justice and the law.

Shortly after the raid, Cuellar’s attorney Joshua Berman issued a statement indicating that federal authorities had clarified that the congressman was not the primary target of the investigation. Law enforcement authorities have linked the raid on Cuellar’s residence in 2022 to an ongoing federal investigation involving Azerbaijan and alleged improprieties with U.S. businessmen in the country.

During the raids, Cuellar served as the co-chair of the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus. As stated in the CIA world factbook, the predominantly Muslim nation, known for its oil wealth, has a background of corruption.

The factbook says:

“Since gaining its independence in 1991, Azerbaijan has significantly reduced the poverty rate and has directed some revenue from its oil and gas production to develop the country’s infrastructure. However, corruption remains a burden on the economy, and Western observers and members of the country’s political opposition have accused the government of authoritarianism.”

Cuellar stated on Friday that he and his wife maintain their innocence regarding the allegations mentioned in recent media coverage, and they persist in refuting any accusations of misconduct. Cuellar said “I want to be clear that both my wife and I are innocent of these allegations. Everything I have done in Congress has been to serve the people of South Texas.”

The DOJ laid out the following charges:

“Two counts of conspiracy to commit bribery of a federal official and to have a public official act as an agent of a foreign principal, five years in prison on each count; two counts of bribery of a federal official, 15 years in prison on each count; two counts of conspiracy to commit honest services wire fraud, 20 years in prison on each count; two counts of violating the ban on public officials acting as agents of a foreign principal, two years in prison on each count; one count of conspiracy to commit concealment money laundering, 20 years in prison; and five counts of money laundering, 20 years in prison on each count.”