'Fat Leonard', Malaysian owner of Singapore-based firm accused of bribing US Navy officers, pleads guilty

Leonard Glenn Francis, also known as "Fat Leonard", who had earlier said he was innocent, pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and conspiracy in a case involving high-ranking US Navy officers. -- PHOTO: FACEBOOK
Leonard Glenn Francis, also known as "Fat Leonard", who had earlier said he was innocent, pleaded guilty to charges of bribery and conspiracy in a case involving high-ranking US Navy officers. -- PHOTO: FACEBOOK

SAN DIEGO (REUTERS) - A Malaysian businessman accused of bribing high-ranking US Navy officers to steer millions of dollars of contract services to his company, pleaded guilty to corruption charges in federal court in San Diego on Thursday.

Leonard Glenn Francis, also known as "Fat Leonard", 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. He faces up to 25 years in prison.

As part of a deal reached with federal prosecutors, Francis' and his company, Glenn Defence Marine Asia, will forfeit US$35 million (S$46 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 indictments alleged that Francis bribed Navy officers with cash, as well as prostitutes, high-end electronics, luxury hotel stays and high-priced entertainment for Navy officers who then shared classified information.

He allegedly received information on ship movements and schedules, and later on Navy investigations into his billing practices, prosecutors said.

Assistant US Attorney Mark Pletcher said the investigation in the case is ongoing, covering a 10-year period beginning in 2004.

Navy Captain Daniel Dusek also pleaded guilty to bribery on Thursday, bringing the total charged so far to eight, including two Navy commanders.

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.