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Pacific News Minute: Three more Current or former Navy Officers Arrested in "Fat Leonard" Scandal

Amit Sharma / Flickr
Amit Sharma / Flickr

Last Friday, a lieutenant commander and two retired Navy officers were arrested as part of a long running investigation into corruption in the US Seventh Fleet, which has its headquarters in Japan.  The head of a defense contractor named Glenn Defense Marine Asia admits that he bribed dozens of officers with lavish meals, prostitutes and cash, and bilked the Navy of at least thirty five million dollars. We have more, from Neal Conan in the Pacific News Minute.

In 1992, when the US lost the use of Subic Bay, its big base in the Philippines, the 7th Fleet stepped up visits to less familiar Pacific ports where it suddenly needed services like fuel and food.  Enter Malaysian born businessman Leonard Glenn Francis, known by his nickname, "Fat Leonard." According to a report in the Washington Post, Francis bribed Navy officers to steer business his way and turn a blind eye to inflated bills. The contractor even put a senior NCIS agent on his payroll, to tip him off when investigators got curious.

A Francis ship named the Glenn Braveheart sometimes anchored alongside the flagship of the Seventh Fleet, USS Blue Ridge. According to court records and Post interviews, the Glenn Braveheart became a giant party boat, with prostitutes in the wardroom to entertain US officers.

"The Soviets couldn't have penetrated us better than Leonard Francis," according to a retired officer who goes unnamed in the Post report.

Francis himself has pleaded guilty to fraud and bribery. So far, four officers, an enlisted sailor and the NCIS agent have also pleaded guilty.  Prosecutors say scores more are under investigation, and it goes right to the top. The Post reported that, at a gathering of about 200 admirals in Washington last December, the Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral John Richardson, revealed that about thirty of them are under investigation in the Fat Leonard scandal.

Over 36 years with National Public Radio, Neal Conan worked as a correspondent based in New York, Washington, and London; covered wars in the Middle East and Northern Ireland; Olympic Games in Lake Placid and Sarajevo; and a presidential impeachment. He served, at various times, as editor, producer, and executive producer of All Things Considered and may be best known as the long-time host of Talk of the Nation. Now a macadamia nut farmer on Hawaiʻi Island, his "Pacific News Minute" can be heard on HPR Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays.
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