IN CASE YOU MISSED IT

SEX, ports and government contracts

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 6, 2013

Singapore-based businessman Leonard Glenn Francis has been reported to own a sprawling 70,000 sq ft Nassim Road bungalow, which has become famous for its extravagant Christmas light-ups.

But his next home could be a jail in the United States, where the 58-year-old Malaysian father of five was charged last month with defrauding the US Navy in a case involving hundreds of millions of dollars in government contracts.

Part of the plot allegedly involved bribing a US Navy commander and a special agent with luxury travel and women in exchange for classified information that allowed Francis to profit from his business dealings with the US Navy.

On Sept 16, Francis, now facing a possible five years in jail for conspiring to commit bribery, was arrested in San Diego while on a business trip.

It brings an end to what was apparently two years of subterfuge. Now, The Sunday Times has obtained court documents which show how far and deep the alleged deceit went.

The business

Francis is the owner of multinational firm Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), based at 15D Pandan Road. It makes its money from "husbanding" services, which involves procuring services needed by ships when they port - from tugboats to food and fuel, and even trash removal. The firm has served the US Navy for over 25 years.

But it seems Francis wanted more. He needed a way to divert US warships to what he called "pearl ports", such as Phuket in Thailand and Malaysia's Port Klang, where it would be easier to fake invoices and jack up charges, from places such as Singapore, where checks were more thorough.

He needed someone who could tell him which ports US Navy ships were headed to, and who had enough influence to direct warships to the pearl ports. That man was US Navy Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 46.

The hook

In January 2011, Misiewicz, who was born in Cambodia and adopted by an American family, became the deputy operations officer for the Commander US Seventh Fleet (C7F) based in Yokosuka, Japan. The fleet is the US' largest outside the country, with an area of operations stretching 125 million sq km from Japan to Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, and from Vladivostok, Russia, to Australia.

As early as May 2010, Francis and one of his associates, a former navy officer who served on C7F's flagship USS Blue Ridge, allegedly started targeting Misiewicz.

It began with tickets for his family to a Lion King show in Tokyo in December 2010.

In March 2011, there was an attempt to secure four prostitutes for Misiewicz and several others on a trip to Singapore that month. The trip never happened because Japan was hit by a tsunami.

"We gotta get him hooked on something," Francis wrote to his ex-officer associate, known as EA in the court documents.

In July, Misiewicz sent a series of e-mail messages revealing the schedule of US ships.

The hook was in.

"We got him," wrote EA in an e-mail to Francis.

Soon Misiewicz was addressing Francis as "Big Brother", and even opened a private e-mail account called lgflittlebro@gmail.com, based on Francis' initials.

Critically, Misiewicz began using his authority to "work (Francis') business plan" by redirecting warships to the pearl ports.

For example, in October last year, supercarrier USS George Washington was diverted from Singapore to Port Klang, where

GDMA charged it more than US$1.8 million (S$2.25 million).

In return, Francis flew Misiewicz and his family to Cambodia for a cousin's wedding, bought him a stay at Singapore's Shangri-La hotel, and got him and his colleagues tickets to a Lady Gaga concert in Thailand last May.

Once, Francis told Misiewicz of his disappointment that they were not able to go out together in Thailand, missing out on "my Elite Thai Seal team" - a reference to prostitutes.

The spy

Through all this, Francis knew that the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) was looking into GDMA for possible fraud.

It started in July 2010, when the company charged the Navy US$110,000 in dockage and wharfage fees after three vessels visited Thailand for an exercise - despite a prior agreement with the Royal Thai Navy that fees would be waived.

According to court documents, the Navy was overcharged by US$2.3 million for port visits to Thailand in 2011 and 2012.

GDMA was also suspected of putting in bids from fraudulent sub-contractors and shell companies, or even false quotes from rivals at a higher rate, so as to win tenders.

Francis was allegedly privy to the probes because he had NCIS supervisory special agent John Bertrand Beliveau II, 44, in his pocket. They had known each other since 2008, at least, when Beliveau was posted to Singapore.

Beliveau gave Francis inside information on how to keep one step ahead. Despite not being assigned the case, he downloaded 125 secret documents from the internal NCIS Knowledge Network.

In return, Francis allegedly bought Beliveau a vacation to Bangkok and a hotel stay at the five-star Dusit International Hotel in March 2011, arranged for female escorts, and a laptop for his Filipino girlfriend.

The Singapore link

Investigations into the widening scandal, which last Wednesday also saw the Navy sack another commanding officer, Captain Daniel Dusek of the USS Bonhomme Richard, have also involved Singapore's Corrupt Practices Investigation Bureau. But it declined to comment on the case as it is before the courts.

According to official records here, GDMA lists Mr Ng Chee Tiong, who had ties with multilevel-marketing company Sunshine Empire - Singapore's biggest Ponzi scheme - and Madam Rosemary Chng, who runs health supplements firm Elixir Botanica, as its secretaries.

Efforts to contact GDMA here met with calls that were hung up or a reply that "senior management are on leave". Spokesman Valeriane Toon, who eventually replied to queries by The Sunday Times, said she had "no comment".

waltsim@sph.com.sg

This story was first published in The Straits Times on Oct 6, 2013

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