Jail term sought for S'porean woman in US Navy graft case

The prosecution is seeking a jail term of at least three years and seven months for Sharon Rachael Gursharan Kaur, who pleaded guilty last year.
The prosecution is seeking a jail term of at least three years and seven months for Sharon Rachael Gursharan Kaur, who pleaded guilty last year.ST FILE PHOTO

A 57-year-old Singaporean woman based here was involved in the largest bribery and fraud conspiracy in the history of the United States Navy.

The scandal involved some US$35 million (S$47.6 million) and resulted in the arrest and conviction of several senior officers of the US Navy, including a retired rear-admiral.

Sharon Rachael Gursharan Kaur was in court yesterday as the prosecution made its submissions for her to be jailed for at least three years and seven months.

Deputy Public Prosecutor Jiang Ke Yue said that as a senior employee of the US government, Kaur's conduct "fell far short of the high standards of integrity demanded of her public office and flagrantly abused her position for substantial personal gain".

Kaur, who was hired as a lead contract specialist for the US Navy, was based at its Supply Systems Command Fleet Logistics Centre in Singapore. The court heard she received more than $130,000 in bribes from the Malaysian chief executive of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), a company incorporated in Singapore which provided goods and services for American ships in at least a dozen countries in Asia.

The CEO, Leonard Glenn Francis, who is in his 50s, was also known to several US Navy personnel as Fat Leonard. Kaur accepted the bribes between 2006 and 2011 as a reward for giving Francis information about the US Navy that was not available to the public.

Defence counsel Suresh Damodara urged the court yesterday to consider judicial mercy and not send his client to jail. Alternatively, he pleaded for "minimal sentences" to be imposed.

He told District Judge Shaiffudin Saruwan that Kaur was diagnosed with ovarian cancer and went through a total hysterectomy in late 2016.

Mr Damodara said: "Despite currently being in remission, under normal situations, our client faces a 10 to 15 per cent chance of relapse... Conditions of incarceration will be a stressor for our client... leading to a relapse."

Kaur had pleaded guilty to three corruption charges and one count of dealing with the proceeds of her criminal activities on June 30 last year. Kaur started her career with the US Navy as a procurement assistant in 1989. DPP Jiang said that by the time Kaur met Francis, she was a contract specialist.

They interacted even more when she was promoted to the lead contract specialist post in 2006. From then until 2013, she would disclose to Francis procurement-sensitive data and price information of his firm's competitors. As a result, he was able to prepare more competitive bids to secure lucrative contracts with the US Navy.

The court heard that the information she 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 the information, Francis gave her a red packet filled with 50 $1,000 notes in December 2008 as a "Christmas bonus", and an envelope with the same amount the next year.

In July 2011, Kaur booked a suite at the five-star St Regis Bali Resort for seven nights. The $15,000 bill was later charged to Francis' GDMA corporate credit card.

Kaur resigned from her job on Jan 8, 2015. She is now out on bail of $50,000 and is expected to be sentenced on July 6.

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.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 22, 2018, with the headline 'Jail term sought for S'porean woman in US Navy graft case'. Print Edition | Subscribe