Admiral pleads guilty to lying in bribery probe

2016-06-10 11:31
Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau enters the federal courthouse in San Diego. (Jenny Ignelzi, AP)

Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau enters the federal courthouse in San Diego. (Jenny Ignelzi, AP)

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San Diego - Navy admiral Robert Gilbeau has pleaded guilty to lying to federal authorities investigating a $34m fraud scheme involving a Malaysian contractor known as "Fat Leonard" - becoming the highest-ranking military official to be taken down in the wide-spanning scandal.

It is extremely rare for an admiral to even face criminal proceedings.

Gilbeau, 55, is believed to be the first active-duty Naval flag officer to be charged in federal court.

Luxury hotels

Gilbeau stood before the judge with a small, fluffy white service dog and told the court matter-of-factly that he was guilty as charged. He declined to comment after the hearing.

Prosecutor Mark Pletcher said more would  come out at his sentencing hearing August 26 when the evidence will show Gilbeau's "pervasive attempt to mislead the investigation."

Pletcher said it will also show how he continued to "deny the nature of his relationship" with Leonard Glenn Francis, who has admitted to bribing Navy officials with more than $500 000 in cash, prostitutes, luxury hotel stays and a staggering amount of others gifts in exchange for classified information to help his company, Glenn Defence Marine Asia.

Francis' company, which has provided fuel, food and other services to Navy ships in Asia for two decades, overbilled the maritime branch by more than $34m, according to court documents.

Gilbeau was not charged like other Navy officials with accepting any bribes. Pletcher said the charge co-incided with the evidence and the admiral was being treated like any other defendant "irrespective of his rank."

So far 14 people have been charged in the case - including 11 current or former US Navy officials. Half have pleaded guilty. They include a commander who was sentenced to 78 months and ordered to pay $95 000 in restitution to the Navy after admitting he redirected ships to ports where Glenn Defence Marine Asia could grossly overcharge the Navy.

According to the plea agreement, Gilbeau admitted that he lied when he told investigators that he had never received any gifts from Francis, nicknamed "Fat Leonard," because of his wide girth.

Special assistant

Gilbeau told investigators that he "always paid for half of the dinner" when he and Francis met about three times a year. He also destroyed documents when he learned of the probe in September 2013, according to the plea agreement.

Francis has been convicted and is awaiting sentencing.

Gilbeau has spent 37 years in the Navy and is still on active duty. He was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart during the 2007 Iraq surge. His most recent post was a desk job working as a special assistant to the commander of the US Naval Supply Systems Command. He was moved to the position after the Navy learned he was being investigated.

Read more on:    us  |  malaysia  |  bribery  |  corruption

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