33 months' jail for Singaporean woman in US Navy graft case

The prosecution made its submissions for Sharon Rachael Gursharan Kaur to be jailed for at least three years and seven months.
The prosecution made its submissions for Sharon Rachael Gursharan Kaur to be jailed for at least three years and seven months.ST FILE PHOTO

She was paid more than $130,000 in bribes to help S'pore-based firm win navy contracts

A 57-year-old Singaporean woman involved in the largest bribery and fraud conspiracy in the history of the United States Navy was sentenced yesterday to 33 months' jail.

Sharon Rachael Gursharan Kaur, who was based here and hired as a lead contract specialist for the US Navy, received more than $130,000 in bribes for giving Singapore-based defence contractor Leonard Glenn Francis, or "Fat Leonard", information about the US Navy that was not available to the public.

The case - known as the Fat Leonard scandal - involved some US$35 million (S$48 million) and resulted in the arrest and conviction of several senior US Navy officers.

Kaur, who broke down after the sentence was handed down, had pleaded guilty to three corruption charges and one count of dealing with the benefits of her criminal activities on June 30 last year.

Five other charges for similar offences were considered during sentencing.

Kaur, who has made full restitution, is planning to appeal.

She started out as a procurement assistant in 1989 before becoming a lead contract specialist at the navy's Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Centre in Singapore.

Her job involved managing ship maintenance and upkeep contracts worth millions of dollars, as well as evaluating contractors.

She met Francis some time before she was promoted to lead contract specialist and their interactions increased after her promotion in 2005. From 2006 to 2013, Kaur gave Francis non-public information that was sensitive and strategic, despite knowing that she was not supposed to do so.

This enabled Francis to prepare more competitive bids and ensure that his company - Glenn Defence Marine Asia (GDMA), which was incorporated in Singapore - could secure lucrative contracts with the navy.

Francis pleaded guilty to his offences in the US on Jan 15, 2015, and remains in custody there. He faces a maximum jail term of 25 years and has since agreed to forfeit US$35 million in personal assets.

 
 

The court heard that the information Kaur leaked was linked to 16 US Navy contracts. GDMA submitted bids for 14 of them and was awarded 11 contracts worth some US$48 million in total.

In exchange for her information, Francis gave her the bribes.

On one occasion, Francis gave Kaur $50,000 in cash to pay the option fee for a condominium unit worth more than $1 million. She and her husband later sold the unit for a profit of over $260,000.

Deputy Public Prosecutors Jiang Ke-Yue and Kelvin Chong argued that in the light of the profit she gained from the condominium unit and how the option fee was corruptly obtained, Kaur should not get full mitigating value for her restitution. They said the $130,000 restituted did not account for the property gains.

They asked for a jail sentence of at least 43 months for Kaur.

Kaur's lawyer Suresh Damodara pleaded that his client not be sent to jail.

He said she was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and underwent a total hysterectomy in late 2016. He added that under normal conditions, she has a 10 to 15 per cent chance of a relapse.

Kaur was sentenced to 33 months' jail.

For corruption, she could have faced up to five years in jail and a fine of up to $100,000.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 07, 2018, with the headline '33 months' jail for S'porean woman in US Navy graft case'. Print Edition | Subscribe