Wednesday January 7, 2015
08:39 AM GMT+8

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Sanchez (right) was accused of accepting cash and the services of prostitutes from the maritime services firm Glenn Defense Marine Asia, led by Malaysian businessman Leonard Glenn Francis. — Reuters picSanchez (right) was accused of accepting cash and the services of prostitutes from the maritime services firm Glenn Defense Marine Asia, led by Malaysian businessman Leonard Glenn Francis. — Reuters picSAN DIEGO, Jan 7 — A US Navy commander pleaded guilty yesterday in federal court in San Diego to bribery charges in connection with a wide-ranging corruption investigation of a Singapore-based defence contractor.

Jose Luis Sanchez, 42, was accused of accepting cash and the services of prostitutes from the maritime services firm Glenn Defense Marine Asia, led by Malaysian businessman Leonard Glenn Francis.

"Commander Sanchez sold out his command and country for cash bribes, luxury hotel rooms, and the services of prostitutes," said Assistant Attorney General Leslie R. Caldwell of the Justice Department's Criminal Division. "After today's guilty plea, instead of free stays at the Shangri-La hotel, Sanchez is facing many nights in federal prison."

Sanchez is the fifth of seven defendants charged in the case and the highest ranking Navy officer to plead guilty so far. He has admitted to accepting bribes worth between US$30,000 and US$100,000 (RM106,860 and RM356,200) in exchange for passing along classified ship schedules to representatives of Glenn Defence Marine Asia (GDMA). The company held US$200 million in contracts to service Navy ships from the Seventh Fleet at ports in Thailand, the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore.

Two other Navy officials, former Naval Criminal Intelligence Service agent John Beliveau and logistics officer Dan Layug, have already pleaded guilty. The fourth, Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 47, was formally indicted Tuesday on seven additional bribery charges. He has pleaded not guilty.

Three officials of GDMA have also been charged, and two have pleaded guilty. The Malaysian owner of the company, Leonard Glenn Francis, pleaded innocent to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery in September 2013 and remains in federal custody.

According to the plea agreement, Sanchez served as a fleet logistics officer from 2008 until 2013, while he was stationed in Japan. He admitted that he gave Francis classified information about ship and submarine movements that helped Francis draw the ships into ports where he held service contracts.

In his plea agreement, Sanchez said he also tipped Francis off to the federal investigations into the firm for overbilling the Navy, and that he used his influence within the Navy to benefit the defence contractor.

In exchange, Sanchez said, on several occasions Francis paid for travel, and prostitutes, including a five-night stay at the Shangri-La in Singapore.

Sanchez faces a maximum prison sentence of 20 years. His sentencing is set for March. — Reuters

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