'Fat Leonard' US Navy bribery case: Not quite Merry Xmas at home of suspect in US Navy scandal

Francis’ elaborate Christmas decorations in 2012 (above). This year, there are no festive lights or lavish displays at the 70,000 sq ft bungalow (right). Francis is being held in a US prison, having been charged with defrauding the US Navy of at least US$20 million. PHOTO: ST FILE

SINGAPORE - The wheel of fortune has turned against Malaysian businessman Leonard Glenn Francis in the space of merely a year.

This time last year, the 70,000 sq ft bungalow in Nassim Road where 49-year-old Francis resided was decorated with life-size reindeer, shimmery trees bathed in purple, red and green, and a towering 12m fake Christmas tree.

Francis, known as "Fat Leonard" in some circles, had even reportedly joked that he was Santa Claus for the annual decorations, believed to have cost a six-digit sum.

But this year, the lights have gone out.

The head of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA) is spending Christmas in a US prison, in a stunning fall from grace.

He was arrested in September after investigators lured him to San Diego in a sting operation, and he was indicted for defrauding the US Navy of at least US$20 million (S$25 million).

He has pleaded not guilty, and was denied bail, being deemed an extreme flight risk. His next scheduled court date is on Feb 28.

A security guard at a nearby residence, who declined to be named, said Francis' family members moved out two months ago, "taking everything, including stone lions" with them.

GDMA, which is based at 15D, Pandan Road, makes its money from "husbanding", which involves procuring services needed by ships when they port - from tugboats to food and fuel, and even trash removal.

In the widening bribery scandal, Francis is alleged to have cultivated close relationships with senior US Navy officers by giving them luxury travel, entertainment and women. In exchange, he got classified information that allowed him to profit from his business dealings with the US Navy.

His cousin Alex Wisidagama, 40, GDMA's general manager for global government contracts, has also been charged in the US, as well as two US Navy commanders.

Last Tuesday, Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agent John Bertrand Beliveau II, 44, pleaded guilty to leaking inside information about ongoing criminal probes against Francis.

More officers are expected to be nabbed in the ongoing probe, said US Navy Secretary Ray Mabus last Friday.

"I think it is fair to say there will be more disclosures coming on GDMA," he said. "I certainly don't think we have seen the end of it."

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