Another official held in US Navy bribery scandal involving Malaysian businessman ‘Fat Leonard’

Leonard Francis

(AFP) – A former top US Navy officer was arrested yesterday over a bribery scandal centered on a Singapore-based contracting firm, in which seven people have already pleaded guilty, officials said.

Paul Simpkins, 60, was arrested in Virginia and charged with conspiracy to commit bribery for his alleged role in a scheme to steer contracts to defence contracting company Glenn Defence Marine Asia (GDMA).

Between 2006 to 2012 he is alleged to have accepted several hundred thousand dollars, travel and entertainment expenses, hotel rooms and the services of prostitutes in return for steering Navy contracts to GDMA.

US prosecutors are seeking his transfer to southern California to face justice there, where other plea deals have been arranged.

“With the arrest of Paul Simpkins, who was recently among the Defence Department’s high ranking civilians, we have uncovered yet another tentacle of this pervasive bribery scheme,” said US Attorney in San Diego Laura Duffy.

“The more we learn about the extent of the greed and corruption, the more determined we are to eviscerate it,” she added.

The Malaysian contractor at the centre of the scandal pleaded guilty to fraud charges last month, admitting to bribing officials with cash, prostitutes, Cuban cigars and Kobe beef.

Known as “Fat Leonard”, 50-year-old Leonard Francis of GDMA confirmed he presided over a decade-long scheme involving tens of millions of dollars in bribes, prosecutors said.

To date, seven individuals including Francis and GDMA itself have entered guilty pleas as part of the investigation, according to a prosecutors’ statement.