WASHINGTON: A retired US Navy admiral and eight other high-ranking officers have been charged with corruption and other offenses in a sprawling bribery probe dubbed the “Fat Leonard” case, prosecutors said 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.
Malaysian businessman Leonard Francis – dubbed “Fat Leonard” on account of his portly figure – is at the center 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 foods.
“Each course was paired with Champagne or fine wine,” prosecutors said, and the total cost of the event was “approximately” $18,371.
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 2016 after serving three decades as an intelligence officer in the Navy. He did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.
“He directly and indirectly, corruptly demanded, sought, received, accepted, and agreed to receive and accept things of value... including entertainment, hotel stays, and the services of prostitutes,” the indictment stated.
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 $50,000.
In one port visit by the USS Blue Ridge in 2007, historical memorabilia in the MacArthur Suite at the Manila Hotel related to legendary US Army General Douglas MacArthur “were used by the participants in sexual acts,” the indictment stated.
Loveless is the second rear admiral to have been charged in the case.
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