US Navy bribery case: Top officer admits lying

LOS ANGELES • A United States admiral has pleaded guilty to lying about his relationship with a Singapore-based defence contractor at the centre of a massive bribery scandal that has tarnished the reputation of top naval officers.

Rear-Admiral Robert Gilbeau - the highest-ranking Navy officer charged in the ongoing probe - admitted before a federal judge in San Diego on Thursday that he had lied when he told investigators that he had never received gifts from Leonard Francis, the owner of Glenn Defence Marine Asia (GDMA).

Few admirals in the history of the US Navy have been convicted of a felony charge. Rear-Adm Gilbeau, 55, told the court he had misled investigators when he told them he always paid his share when he and Francis dined together about three times a year over a period of several years.

He also admitted destroying documents and deleting computer files when he became aware in September 2013 that Francis and others had been arrested in connection with the fraud and bribery probe. He is scheduled to be sentenced on Aug 26.

His attorney, Mr David Benowitz, said he would seek probation for his client. Prosecutors have agreed to ask the judge that he be sentenced to no more than one to 11/2 years in jail.

According to the plea deal, Rear- Adm Gilbeau agreed to pay US$50,000 (S$68,000) restitution to the Navy and a US$100,000 fine.

He will also perform 300 hours of community service.

Francis admitted in January that GDMA, which provided port services, plied naval officers with cash, prostitutes, Cuban cigars and Kobe beef to ensure US Navy ships stopped at ports where it operated. He is awaiting sentencing.

So far, 14 people have been charged in connection with the case. Seven have been sentenced to jail and fined.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 11, 2016, with the headline 'US Navy bribery case: Top officer admits lying'. Print Edition | Subscribe