4th US Navy official charged in bribery investigation

SAN DIEGO (REUTERS) - The fourth US Navy official charged in the widening corruption investigation of a Singapore-based defence contractor made his first court appearance, accused of accepting gifts of cash, electronics and luxury hotel stays.

Petty Officer First Class Dan Layug, 27, is charged with conspiracy to commit bribery, according to a complaint unsealed on Thursday. Tokyo-based Layug was arrested on Wednesday in San Diego, where he later appeared before a federal judge.

He is accused of accepting payments of US$1,000 a month (S$1,250), plus expensive electronic gadgets and luxury hotel stays, in exchange for information he provided on Navy ships' schedules to Glenn Defense Marine Asia, the company at the center of the scandal.

The company's CEO, native Malaysian businessman Leonard Glenn Francis, is charged with plying Navy officials with cash, concert tickets, prostitutes and other gifts to win business.

US Navy Commander Michael Misiewicz and Navy criminal investigations special agent John Beliveau were arrested on Sept. 16, 2013, at the same time as Francis, and charged with conspiracy to commit bribery.

Commander Jose Luis Sanchez was arrested and charged in November with accepting prostitutes, luxury travel and US$100,000 in cash from Francis. Glenn Defense executive Alex Wisidagama, of Singapore, was also charged in the scandal. He and Beliveau have since pleaded guilty.

Two other high-level Navy officers - a vice admiral and a rear admiral - have been placed on leave, and a captain was removed from the command of an assault ship in connection with the investigation, but they have not been charged.

The complaints against Francis allege that he directed a scheme to defraud the Navy by bribing military officials to steer ships into harbors where his company would provide ship husbandry - a range of services from cleaning, restocking and refueling to shepherding Navy personnel during their port stay.

Francis, the complaints allege, would then inflate the charges for those services and demand kickbacks from his company's subcontractors.

Court records indicate that Glenn Defense Marine Asia has been servicing Navy ships since at least 2009. In 2011, the company won a contract that officials estimate was worth at least US$200 million.

US Magistrate Judge Karen Crawford set Layug's bond at US$100,000 and ordered him to wear a GPS monitoring device to track his whereabouts.

If convicted, Layug faces up to five years in prison and a maximum fine of US$250,000.

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