Another US navy officer suspended in graft probe involving Singapore-based contractor

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - The US Navy said on Thursday that it has suspended the deputy commander of a unit responsible for port and harbour security as a result of allegations in the widening corruption probe involving a Singapore-based defence contractor.

Captain David Haas was suspended as deputy commander of Coastal Riverine Group 1 in San Diego, which is responsible for port security and military operations in rivers, harbours and coastal waterways, the Navy said. He was temporarily reassigned effective Nov. 15 to the Expeditionary Training Group staff.

Six Navy officers and a Navy criminal investigator have been touched by allegations in the widening probe of contractor Glenn Defence Marine Asia, whose chief executive Leonard Glenn Francis is accused of plying Navy officials with cash, travel, concert tickets and prostitutes in a bid to win business for his firm.

Francis, a 49-year-old Malaysian businessman, was arrested in San Diego on Sept. 16. He was expected to appear at a bail hearing in California on Thursday.

Glenn Defence Marine Asia is engaged in organising port visits, providing security, setting up repairs and taking care of other details related to Navy stops at foreign harbours.

In response to the criminal probe, the Navy has suspended contracts with the firm, which has done business with the Pentagon for some 25 years, that potentially were worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The most senior officers touched by the investigation so far are Vice Admiral Ted Branch, the director of Naval Intelligence, and Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless, the director of Intelligence Operations.

Their access to classified information was suspended earlier this month and they were put on temporary leave due to allegations of "inappropriate conduct." No charges have been filed against them at this point.

US Navy Commander Michael Misiewicz and Navy criminal investigations special agent John Beliveau were arrested on Sept. 16, the same time as Francis, and charged with conspiracy to commit bribery.

Commander Jose Luis Sanchez was arrested and charged earlier this month with accepting prostitutes, luxury travel and US$100,000 (S$124,961) in cash from Francis.

And Captain Daniel Dusek, former commander of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, was relieved of his command in October as a result of the investigation, the Navy said. He has not been charged.

Haas, the latest officer touched by the investigation, is former commander of the guided missile frigate USS Thatch and served on the staff of the US Seventh Fleet in Japan from August 2011 to July 2013. He has not been charged with a crime.