Leonard Glenn Francis, a Malaysian businessman known as “Fat Leonard” by his U.S. Navy contacts, was accused of bribing high-ranking U.S. Navy officers to steer millions of dollars of contract services to his company. Francis, who had earlier said he was innocent, pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and conspiracy in the case, which shook the Navy command structure when the investigation was made public last fall, reports the Malaysian Insider. He faces up to 25 years in prison.
Prosecutors say Francis, chief executive of Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., or GDMA, bought information from Navy officials that allowed his company to overbill the military branch by at least $20 million for services it provided to Navy ships at Asian ports since 2009, according to the Navy Times.
Francis paid for plane tickets, hotels, and prostitutes for Navy officials who helped him, according to prosecutors. GDMA has provided fuel, food, and supplies for Navy ships for 25 years. He was arrested in 2013 on a trip to San Diego.
As part of a deal reached with federal prosecutors, Francis and his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, will forfeit U.S. $35 million (RM 124.84 million) in property and other proceeds stemming from the alleged corruption. In addition to his own guilty plea, Francis also pleaded guilty on behalf of the firm.
The hearing comes barely a week after a Navy commander acknowledged sharing confidential information with Francis.
The Navy Times reports Jose Luis Sanchez said he provided shipping schedules and other information to Francis in exchange for bribes. Sanchez admitted taking bribes valued between $30,000 and $120,000 from 2009 to 2013, a prostitute, $7,500 to travel from Asia to the U.S. and five days at Singapore’s luxury Shangri-La Hotel, according to a 24-page plea agreement. In exchange, he provided classified Navy ship and submarine schedules and other internal information to Francis.
He became the highest-ranking Navy official to plead guilty in the case after Daniel Layug, a petty officer who admitted providing classified shipping schedules and other internal Navy information to Francis.
Sanchez faces a maximum penalty of 20 years in prison when he is sentenced March 27 for bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery.
Assistant US attorney Mark Pletcher would not say whether more indictments are forthcoming, but hinted broadly that additional Navy personnel might be investigated.
“Francis maintained corrupt relations with scores of Navy officials,” Pletcher added.
Of the eight people charged thus far, three including Francis worked with Glenn Defense Marine Asia and five are with the Navy. The aftershocks of the scandal were felt high up in the Navy command.