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Defence

‘Fat Leonard’ scandal widens, with indictment of three more retired US Navy officials

Former sailors charged with accepting cash bribes, gifts, prostitutes and more from Malaysian defence contractor

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 18 August, 2018, 2:10pm
UPDATED : Saturday, 18 August, 2018, 9:09pm

The worst corruption scandal in navy history escalated on Friday as federal prosecutors announced bribery and fraud charges against three retired sailors, including an officer who allegedly took part in a wild two-day party with prostitutes in Tokyo that cost US$75,000.

A grand jury in San Diego indicted retired Captain David Haas, 50, of Kailua, Hawaii, on charges that he took US$145,000 in bribes from Leonard Glenn Francis, a Singapore-based defence contractor known as “Fat Leonard” in navy circles.

Indicted separately on fraud charges were Ricarte Icmat David, 61, a retired master chief petty officer who now lives in the Philippines, and Brooks Alonzo Parks, 46, a retired chief petty officer who lives in Naples, Italy, according to the Justice Department.

As of Friday, none of the defendants had made a court appearance and it was unclear whether they had hired any lawyers. It was also unclear whether David or Parks would voluntarily return to the United States to face charges or whether federal officials would have to seek their extradition.

Federal investigators have been scrutinising Haas’ conduct since the corruption scandal became public five years ago.

Soon after Francis was arrested in a sting operation in San Diego in September 2013, navy officials announced that Haas had been suspended from his military duties and placed under criminal investigation by the Justice Department. But authorities provided no further updates on his case until Friday. Haas retired from the navy in September 2016 and now works for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, according to his LinkedIn profile.

“Captain Haas is innocent of the charges and we will defend the case in a court of law,” said his lawyer, Jeremiah Sullivan III of San Diego.

According to the indictment, Haas accepted a series of bribes from Francis in 2011 and 2012 when the captain was serving as director of maritime operations for the navy’s 7th Fleet, based in Japan. In exchange, Haas allegedly acted as a secret mole for Francis to help drum up business for his company, Glenn Defence Marine Asia, which held US$250 million in contracts to resupply navy ships and submarines in the Western Pacific.

In June 2012, for example, Francis paid more than US$75,000 for Haas and other navy officers to spend an extravagant two days in Tokyo, where they partied at several clubs with prostitutes, according to the indictment. On another night in Tokyo in November 2011, Francis allegedly spent more than US$20,000 for Haas and other officers to dine at the Ritz-Carlton Hotel and spend the evening with prostitutes.

David is charged with accepting US$40,000 in cash bribes from Francis, as well as prostitutes and other gifts.

Parks is charged with accepting lavish hotel suites, airlines tickets and other gifts from Francis.

Francis pleaded guilty to bribery and corruption charges in 2015 and has been cooperating with investigators since then.

The Justice Department has now filed criminal charges against 32 defendants who worked for the navy or Glenn Defence Marine Asia. But those represent only a fraction of the people swept up in the scandal.

Separately, the Justice Department has provided the navy with dossiers on 550 people who had contact with Francis – including about 60 admirals – to determine whether they violated military law or ethics rules.