A retired US Navy officer has pleaded guilty to federal charges of arranging kickbacks on behalf of an Asian defence contractor, marking an escalation of a long-running bribery scandal.
Edmond Aruffo, who retired as a lieutenant commander in 2007 after serving 20 years in the navy, admitted one count of conspiracy to defraud the US government as part of a deal with federal prosecutors in California.
After leaving the navy, Aruffo worked for three years as an executive with Glenn Defence Marine Asia, a Singapore-based contractor that supplied and serviced US Navy ships at ports across Asia until the bribery investigation became public in September.
Aruffo, 45, is the fourth person to plead guilty in the case, along with a navy petty officer, a senior agent with the Naval Criminal Investigative Service and another Glenn Defence Marine executive.
Three others are awaiting trial, including two navy officers and the company's president, Leonard Francis, a Malaysian known as "Fat Leonard".
In addition, the navy has said that two admirals and two captains are under investigation.
According to a copy of the plea agreement filed in federal court in San Diego, Aruffo arranged an elaborate kickback scheme in Japan that defrauded the navy of between US$1 million and US$2.5 million between July 2009 and September 2010.
During that time, Aruffo was the firm's Japan manager. Court papers state that he conspired with Japanese subcontractors to overbill the navy for basic services whenever one of its ships docked in a Japanese port.
Aruffo and Glenn Defence Marine also provided meals, drinks and gifts to US Navy officers, the plea agreement stated.
"This corruption scandal continues to lead us in new directions, and we continue to marvel at the extent of it," Laura Duffy, the US attorney for the Southern District of California, said.