World

'Fat Leonard' graft case snags more US navy officers

WASHINGTON: A retired US Navy admiral and eight other high-ranking officers have been charged with corruption and other offences in a sprawling bribery probe dubbed the "Fat Leonard" case, prosecutors said on Tuesday.

Retired rear admiral Bruce Loveless, a Navy intelligence officer, is the second admiral to be charged in the case, which has now grown to include 25 named defendants.

Singapore-based Malaysian businessman Leonard Francis - dubbed "Fat Leonard" for his portly figure - is at the centre of the case and awaiting US sentencing after admitting his port-services company plied officers with cash, prostitutes and other perks to ensure US Navy ships stopped at ports where his firm operated.

In one incident, Francis hosted a dinner in Hong Kong at which Loveless and others allegedly gorged on an eight-course meal featuring black truffle soup, rock lobster salad, caviar, pan-seared duck liver and other fancy food.

"Each course was paired with Champagne or fine wine," prosecutors said, and the total cost of the event was "approximately" US$18,371 (S$26,000).

Loveless was taken into custody at his home in Coronado on Tuesday and was expected to make his first appearance in federal court later in the day.

Loveless's LinkedIn profile says he retired in October last year after serving three decades as an intelligence officer in the Navy.

He did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

According to prosecutors, Francis had picked up the tab on widespread debauchery, including a May 2008 "raging multi-day party, with a rotating carousel of prostitutes, during which the conspirators drank all of the Dom Perignon available at the Shangri-La (hotel)" in Manila at a cost of more than US$50,000.

In June last year, Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau admitted before a federal judge in San Diego that he had lied when he told investigators he had never received gifts from Francis. - AFP

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