US admiral gets 18 months' jail in 'Fat Leonard' case

US admiral gets 18 months' jail in 'Fat Leonard' case

Retired US Navy Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau has been sentenced to 18 months in prison for lying to federal investigators involving a Malaysian defence contractor in a massive corruption scandal. (Courtesy US Navy via AP)

WASHINGTON: A former admiral was sentenced on Wednesday (May 17) to 18 months in prison for his role in a sprawling bribery scandal dubbed the "Fat Leonard" case, becoming the highest-ranking US Navy officer to be convicted in the probe.

Prosecutors said retired rear admiral Robert Gilbeau, 56, had lied to investigators to conceal his "illicit" 20-year relationship with Malaysian businessman Leonard Francis, who ran a port services firm called Glenn Defence Marine Asia (GDMA).

Francis has admitted to plying officers with cash, booze, prostitutes and other perks to ensure US Navy ships stopped at ports where his firm operated.

"You violated the law and dishonored your shipmates, the Navy and the United States of America," Judge Janis Sammartino said at Gilbeau's hearing in San Diego, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.

Prosecutors said Francis had supplied Gilbeau with prostitutes and paid for his stay in a fancy hotel.

Gilbeau has admitted that he lied when he told investigators that he had never received any gifts from Francis.

Gilbeau offered an apology for his conduct, and in a letter to the court he reportedly said his issues resulted from post-traumatic stress and other problems stemming from a 2007 mortar attack in Iraq.

"I am proud of my Navy career and proud to be an American," said Gilbeau, according to the Washington Post. "To the Navy, I want to say I am sorry."

The Post said Admiral William Moran, the vice chief of naval operations, had written a letter to the court saying Gilbeau had inflicted "immeasurable damage" on the Navy and "grossly dishonoured his uniform and betrayed his fellow shipmates."

The fraud and bribery investigation has so far seen 20 current and former Navy officials charged. Of them, 10 have pleaded guilty and 10 cases are pending, prosecutors said.

Additionally, five GDMA executives and the GDMA corporation have pleaded guilty.

In March, a second retired rear admiral, Bruce Loveless, a Navy intelligence officer, was charged in the case.

During his career in the Navy, Gilbeau was promoted to several top positions, including that of supply officer on the USS Nimitz in 2003-2004, where he was responsible for procuring all goods and services needed to operate the ship.

He also headed the Navy's logistics response to the 2004 tsunami in Southeast Asia.

After being promoted to admiral, he assumed command in August 2010 of the Defence Contract Management Agency International, where he was responsible for critical defence contracts outside the United States.

Source: AFP/de