U.S. Navy exercises off the coast of San Diego, Calif. (U.S. Pacific Fleet / CC 2.0)
New details have emerged in a rapidly widening bribery scandal in the U.S. Navy, as indictment documents unsealed Tuesday reveal how a Malaysian defense contractor bribed former and current Navy officers for classified information.
Nine current and former military officers were charged in the latest indictment, including a recently retired rear admiral who collected foreign intelligence for the Navy’s Seventh Fleet.
[The indictment] gives an extensive list of bribes to the officers from 2006 to 2012 from Leonard Francis in exchange for classified shipping schedules and other information to help his company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia. In one example, a party with prostitutes at the Manila Hotel’s MacArthur Suite during a 2007 port call to the Philippines included sex acts using historic MacArthur memorabilia.
One meal during a 2006 port visit to Hong Kong cost $20,435. A dinner during a port call to Singapore that year featured foie gras, oxtail soup, cognac that cost about $2,000 a bottle and cigars at $2,000 a box.
Prosecutors say Francis, who is nicknamed Fat Leonard for his wide girth, bilked the Navy out of nearly $35 million, largely by overcharging for his company’s services supplying Navy ships in the Pacific with food, water, fuel and other necessities.
Navy officers provided classified information to Francis that helped him beat competitors and, in some instances, commanders steered ships to ports in the Pacific where his company could charge fake tariffs and fees, prosecutors said.
Francis was arrested in 2013 and pled guilty to numerous charges in 2015, but details of the bribery scheme have continued to emerge in the years since the conspiracy first surfaced. The AP adds that Francis is still awaiting sentencing.
The New York Times writes that the bribery ring “cost the Navy “tens of millions of dollars” in overbillings to Mr. Francis’ firm, as he relied on sensitive and sometimes classified information the officers had given them to game the system, according to the indictment.”
“A total of 25 military officers and private-sector executives have now been prosecuted in one of the worst corruption scandals to hit the military in years,” The Times continues.
Retired Admiral Bruce Loveless is the most prominent of those charged Tuesday. “[S]everal Navy captains, a retired Marine colonel and an enlisted sailor” were also charged, notes NBC News.
“This is a fleecing and betrayal of the United States Navy in epic proportions, and it was allegedly carried out by the Navy’s highest-ranking officers,” Alana W. Robinson, the interim U.S. Attorney for San Diego, stated. “[T]he alleged conduct amounts to a staggering degree of corruption by the most prominent leaders of the Seventh Fleet — the largest fleet in the U.S. Navy — actively worked together as a team to trade secrets for sex, serving the interests of a greedy foreign defense contractor, and not those of their own country.”
—Posted by Emma Niles