Former US Navy commander pleads guilty to taking bribes from 'Fat Leonard' Francis

Malaysian businessman known as "Fat Leonard" Francis is involved in the largest corruption scandal to hit the US Navy. PHOTO: FACEBOOK/MAGGIENOTES

SAN DIEGO - A former US Navy commander pleaded guilty on Tuesday (Jan 30) to accepting bribes from a Singapore-based defence contractor known as "Fat Leonard" Francis in the largest corruption scandal to hit the US Navy.

Troy Amundson, 50, who once controlled the service's joint military exercises, admitted to the District Court in San Diego to have traded "confidential, proprietary US Navy information" for entertainment expenses and services from prostitutes, according to a statement from the US Attorney for the Southern District of California.

"Amundson admitted that from September 2012 through October 2013, Francis paid for dinner, drinks, transportation, other entertainment expenses, and the services of prostitutes for Amundson and other US Navy officers," the US attorney's statement said.

Amundson is the 20th of 29 defendants to plead guilty in the scandal - that dates back to at least 2007 - and faces up to five years in prison and a US$250,000 (S$328,120) fine, reported the Stars and Stripes, a news site for US military news.

Other officials who fell from grace after taking gifts from Malaysian businessman Leonard Glenn "Fat Leonard" Francis included navy commander Bobby Pitts who was in charge of the Fleet Industrial Supply Command in Singapore, and retired rear-admiral Robert Gilbeau. Both men were sentenced to 1½ years in prison last year.

Francis was arrested by federal agents in 2013 in a sting operation in San Diego and has pleaded guilty to bribing scores of US Navy officials in the scandal that cost the US government about US$35 million.

Francis' Singapore-based company Glenn Defence Marine Asia (GDMA) provided services to US Navy ships including fuel and tugboats at Asian ports.

After Admundson was questioned by federal investigators in October 2013, he erased all correspondences with Francis from his private e-mail account.

In one of those mails, Amundson offered proprietary US Navy information, CNN reported.

"Handoff?... (My friend), your program is awesome. I (Amundson) am a small dog just trying to get a bone... however I am very happy with my small program. I still need five minutes to pass some data when we can meet up. Cannot print," he wrote.

Later that night, Francis sent several prostitutes from Mongolia to Amundson.

Amundson will be sentenced on April 27.

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