Congress to investigate Navy bribery scandal

Rep. Darrell Issa, Republican from California, has called for an investigation into a Navy bribery scandal originating in the Asia-Pacific region.


By ERIK SLAVIN | STARS AND STRIPES Published: January 31, 2014

YOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan — The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee will investigate a scandal involving Navy officials accepting gifts, including in exchange for classified information, according to a memo released in Washington late Thursday.

Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif., the committee’s chair, called for contracting documents dating back four years and a briefing by Navy Secretary Ray Mabus on the “string of contracting scandals that have engulfed the U.S. Navy,” according to a Jan. 28 letter he sent to Mabus.

At the center of the scandal is Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a contractor that has provided support services to Navy ships docked at ports throughout Asia for decades. Federal prosecutors allege that GDMA and its president, Malaysian national Leonard Glenn Francis — known as “Fat Leonard” — overbilled the Navy by $20 million in recent years.

Court documents allege that Francis bribed multiple Navy officers in exchange for information on ship schedules and cooperation in steering ships to ports where GDMA could reap higher fees.

Mabus has ordered contracting officials to review current practices and propose better anti-fraud measures. However, Issa wrote that the Navy had previously appointed a panel in 2011 to review practices in the wake of an $18 million kickback “and it does not appear that the process has improved significantly.”

“While I am pleased that you have recognized that the Navy’s contracting practices must change, I am concerned that these [internal] reviews will not go far enough,” Issa wrote.

Issa has given the Navy until Feb. 6 to hand over copies of all contracting documents between the Navy and GDMA dating back to Jan. 1, 2009.

In September, federal agents arrested Leonard; Cmdr. Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, former USS Mustin commander and deputy operations officer for the Yokosuka-based U.S. 7th Fleet; and, Naval Criminal Investigative Service special agent John Beliveau II.

Agents later arrested Francis’ cousin, Alex Wisidagama, and Navy Cmdr. Jose Luis Sanchez. Other officers, including two admirals, have been relieved but not charged while the service probes their involvement.

All have pleaded not guilty except for Beliveau, who admitted to bribery charges in December. Beliveau accepted plane tickets, hotel rooms and prostitutes in exchange for passing on confidential NCIS files about the Navy’s investigation into Leonard.

Francis also tried to arrange tickets for Misiewicz and other sailors to a Lady Gaga concert in Thailand, and lamented that Misiewicz missed a group of female escorts that Francis referred to as his “Elite Thai Seal Team,” according to an email cited in the court complaint.

Issa’s memo also noted that in November, the Navy suspended supply firm Inchcape Shipping Services, after the Justice Department began investigating allegations that it too overbilled the Navy. Inchcape is one of the Navy’s main ship service providers in the Middle East and Africa.