PHOTO COURTESY OF BEACHHOUSE.COM
By EZEQUIEL ABIU LOPEZ
SANTO DOMINGO, Dominican Republic — A Dominican Republic resort long known as an exclusive Caribbean hideaway, where at least three former U.S. presidents have played golf, is one of the main settings in the corruption scandal enveloping Sen. Bob Menendez.
Menendez is accused of accepting $1 million in luxury vacations, airline travel, golf trips and tens of thousands
of dollars in contributions to a legal defense fund, in exchange for political favors from Dr. Salamon Melgen, a friend and Florida eye doctor of Dominican descent.
Among the gifts: The senator stayed at Melgen’s Spanish-style villa
at the Casa de Campo resort, with or without the eye doctor, “on numerous occasions” from August 2006 to January 2013, according to a 14-count indictment unsealed Wednesday that charges both men.
Casa de Campo, which is Spanish
for country home, is in La Romana province, on the southeastern coast of the Dominican Republic.
The indictment notes it is a luxury golf and sporting resort, with a marina, three golf courses, three polo fields, equestrian facilities, a 245-acre shooting facility, spa, beaches and a hotel where rooms typically cost about $500 a night.
Casa de Campo was developed in the 1970s by the U.S. conglomerate Gulf and Western Corp. on its sugar holdings in the country. The sugar property and development were later acquired by the Fanjul family, who are based in Florida but have extensive business in the Dominican Republic.
The resort today encompasses 28 square kilometers (about 11 square miles) and counts 1,200 residents, including such celebrities as Sammy Sosa and Juan Luis Guerra and Oscar de la Renta before his death last year.
Visitors have included former U.S. Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and George Herbert Walker Bush, all of whom played golf there. In November, singer Marc Anthony celebrated his wedding at Casa de Campo and Kim Kardashian filmed two episodes of her show there.
Security keeps out the general public. The only way onto the property for non-residents is to have a reservation at the hotel or at a rented home.