Glenn Defense Marine Asia and the US 7th Fleet (the ‘Fat Leonard’ scandal)

Introduction

While high-value military hardware procurement programs feature most prominently as vehicles for corruption in this compendium, less visible but equally critical contracts are also susceptible to graft. A now-four-year scandal stemming from corrupt port services contracts has rocked the U.S. Navy’s Pacific operations, implicating officers and civilians up and down the ranks. Prosecutors determined that a contractor based in Singapore, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Pte. Ltd. (GDMA), which provided everything from meals to tugboat services to the U.S. 7th Fleet, had bribed more than two dozen officers, enlisted, and civilian employees to not only provide confidential information on ship movements, but to steer Navy ships toward harbors that offered a higher profit margin to GDMA. The bribes also netted the company information about its competitors’ bids and favorable recommendations within the contracting process. As a result, GDMA was able to overcharge the U.S. Navy and maintain a competitive edge in contract tenders across East Asia.

Key facts

Buyer: USA (Navy 7th Fleet)

Seller: Glenn Defense Marine Asia (Singapore)

Year of Procurement Decisions: 2004-2013

Services sold: Port services (“husbanding services”) across the Western Pacific, including tugboat services, management of port authority and customs fees, and provision of food, fuel, trash and waste removal, and transportation.

Value of deals: Total contract value of USD 33 million between 2008 and 2013, according to USASpending.gov; figures for previous years not available. Prosecutors have asked the courts to apply penalties based on Leonard Francis having profited from the bribes by a sum of between USD 7 and 20 million.

Amounts involved in corruption allegations: USD 500,000 cash; and a total of “millions” in luxury travel, entertainment, and gifts, listed by prosecutors as:

“hundreds of thousands of dollars in the services of prostitutes and associated expenses; hundreds of thousands of dollars in travel expenses, including airfare, often first or business class, luxurious hotel stays, incidentals, and spa treatments; hundreds of thousands of dollars in lavish meals, top-shelf alcohol and wine, and entertainment; and hundreds of thousands of dollars in luxury gifts, including designer handbags and leather goods, watches, fountain pens, fine wine, champagne, Scotch, Kobe beef, Spanish suckling pigs, designer furniture, Cuban cigars, consumer electronics, ornamental swords, and hand-made ship models.”

Dramatis Personae

Leonard Glenn Francis (a.k.a. ‘Fat Leonard’) – President and CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia Pte. Ltd. The chief bribe-giver in the scandal, he agreed to a plea deal in January 2014 and awaits sentencing.

Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz – Commander, U.S. Navy. Previously, the deputy director of operations for the 7th Fleet; pled guilty to providing lists of ship movements to Francis and taking bribes in cash and entertainment. Prosecutors allege that Misiewicz had the closest personal relationship with Francis. Sentenced to six and a half years in prison.

David Alexander Morales – Commander, U.S. Navy. The first officer to be tried by a military court for accepting bribes in the scandal, Morales was groomed to replace Misiewicz as Francis’ primary contact, according to prosecutors.

Robert Gilbeau – Rear Admiral, U.S. Navy. The most senior officer to plead guilty as part of the conspiracy, Gilbeau was a supply officer who deployed to the Western Pacific. He pled guilty to making false statements, but not to bribery or corruption. Sentenced to 18 months in prison.

John B. Beliveau II – Supervisory Special Agent, Naval Criminal Investigative Service. Pled guilty to leaking information on criminal probes into GDMA in exchange for bribes. Sentenced to 12 years in prison.

Ted “Twig” Branch – Vice Admiral, U.S. Navy. Named, but not charged, in the scandal. The admiral was serving as deputy chief of naval operations for information warfare and director of naval intelligence when his security clearance was revoked in 2013 as a safeguard.

The deals

Glenn Defense Marine Asia Pte. Ltd. (GDMA) and its owner, Leonard Glenn Francis, provided the U.S. Navy with supply services for over 25 years before their indictment in 2013. Francis, a Malaysian citizen resident in Singapore, was widely known by the nickname “Fat Leonard, ”and had established GDMA as a major player in the U.S. 7th Fleet’s area of responsibility in the Western Pacific. Between 2006 and 2013, GDMA had won specific contracts for “husbanding services,” in Singapore, Japan, the Philippines, Malaysia, the Pacific Islands, and South Asia; in 2011, it won region-wide contracts that covered maritime Southeast and East Asia. The contract for the Southeast Asia region, as described by prosecutors, had a USD 25 million base value, plus markups on specific items (for 2011 Southeast Asia Contract).

In ports, it provided tugboats to guide Navy ships into harbor, personnel to offload trash and liquid waste from ships, transportation for sailors ashore, and intermediaries to handle port and customs paperwork. In short, it was an important component in the U.S. Navy’s logistics operations and had solidified its position as a contractor in a narrowly contested market.

The investigation

In 2010, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS) opened two fraud investigations into GDMA’s contracts with the U.S. Navy. Thanks to John Beliveau, a NCIS officer who had previously served in Singapore and come in contact with Francis, GDMA was able to avoid accusations for at least two years. Beliveau leaked details of the investigation to GDMA and coached Francis on how to respond to agents’ queries. In 2012, however, the NCIS opened yet another investigation into the possibility that GDMA was over-reporting the cost of a sub-contract. Beliveau once again attempted to help GDMA but was arrested in September 2013.

At the same time, the two main co-conspirators, Leonard Francis and Michael Misiewicz were also detained and charged. Francis’ guilty plea, agreed in January 2014, outlined the purpose of the bribery scheme. In exchange for cash, gifts, luxury travel, and prostitutes, the U.S. Navy officers implicated in the case provided Francis with confidential information on ship schedules and the contracting process for husbanding services. This helped GDMA in at least two major ways. First, GDMA gained information on its competitors and was able to manipulate the contracting process to favor its bids. Second, Francis requested that Navy operations planners change ship itineraries so that U.S. vessels would dock at the port where GDMA earned the most revenue. U.S. prosecutors allege that this quid pro quo earned GDMA and Francis up to USD 20 million in illicit income over the normal face value of the contracts GDMA would otherwise have earned. Less conservative estimates put the total value of goods and services overcharged at up to USD 38 million.

Over the course of the next four years, 21 U.S. Navy officers and five civilians—mostly serving or having recently served in the U.S. 7th Fleet—have been charged with receiving bribes from GDMA. In addition, five GDMA employees, including Francis, have pled guilty to providing the bribes. As the scandal has advanced up the ranks, even serving and retired admirals have been implicated or charged for their involvement in the scheme or in covering it up. For example, Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau was sentenced for giving false statements to investigators and is serving an 18-month prison term.

As the investigation has unfolded, military prosecutors have stepped in to bring charges within the military justice system where a threshold for prosecution in civilian courts was not reached. In total, the military has examined potential charges against 440 officers, including retired personnel, of which 60 are admirals. The Washington Post has reported that investigators took measures to keep even the Navy’s chief of naval operations, who also knew Francis, in the dark regarding the breadth and focus of the probe.

In February 2015, the Secretary of the Navy censured three rear admirals who were implicated but not charged in the conspiracy. As a result of the censure, all three were forced to retire. Earlier, in December 2013, shortly after the scandal became public, the Navy also began a review of its supply contracts worldwide.

Key sources

Leonard Francis’s plea agreement: https://www.justice.gov/sites/default/files/opa/press-releases/attachments/2015/01/16/francis_plea_agreement_comp.pdf

Defense Industry Daily backgrounder: http://www.defenseindustrydaily.com/fat-leonard-pleads-guilty-navy-awaits-more-charges-against-more-officers-029311/

Francis arrested, September 2013: https://www.yahoo.com/news/navy-commander-2-others-charged-bribery-scheme-064224238.html

Charges filed, Nov. 2013: http://www.businessinsider.com/feds-navy-commander-sold-secrets-for-gaga-tickets-2013-11https://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/nov/04/us-navy-commander-accused-bribery-case

Navy to review all supply contracts, Dec. 2013: http://www.nytimes.com/2013/12/10/us/politics/navy-secretary-expands-review-of-supply-contracts.html

NCIS agent pleads guilty, Dec. 2013: http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-agent-pleads-guilty-20131217-story.htmlhttps://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/ncis-agent-implicated-in-fat-leonard-scandal-to-plead-guilty/2013/12/12/c9aa0954-6336-11e3-91b3-f2bb96304e34_story.html

Three admirals censured, February 2015: http://www.navy.mil/submit/display.asp?story_id=85569

Daniel Layug sentencing, January 2016: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/01/21/sentencing-in-epic-navy-bribery-scandal-shows-how-easy-it-was-to-steal-military-secrets/

Leonard pleads guilty, January 2016: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/navy-captain-enters-guilty-plea-in-massive-bribery-case/2015/01/15/b09688ba-9ced-11e4-a7ee-526210d665b4_story.html

Misiewicz pleads guilty, April 2016: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/checkpoint/wp/2016/04/29/fat-leonard-bribery-scandal-claims-navy-officer-who-escaped-cambodias-killing-fields-as-a-child/

RADM Gilbeau to plead guilty June 2016: https://news.usni.org/2016/06/09/admiral-says-hell-plead-guilty-false-statement-charges-part-fat-leonard-investigation

Retired captain pleads guilty Aug 2017 (NB: has full list of those implicated): https://news.usni.org/2017/08/22/retired-captain-enters-guilty-plea-fat-leonard-bribery-scandal