The U.S. Department of Justice has handed the cases of 60 active and retired admirals to the Navy on charges that they took bribes – including expensive meals, hotel stays and prostitutes – in exchange for sharing classified information and steering the 7th Fleet to a defense contractor in Asian-Pacific ports.
The admirals “did not meet the threshold for prosecution in civilian courts, but may have committed offenses under the military justice system,” the DOJ confirmed on Tuesday.
In total, the Navy said it was investigating 440 active and retired staff charged with bribery: the latest in a long-running criminal probe known as the Fat Leonard case, in reference to a nickname for Malaysian businessman Leonard Glenn Francis, who is at the center of the scandal.
In return for the bribes, the Naval officials are accused of sharing information on ship movements and sending ships to a half dozen Glenn Defense Marine Asia port locations. The Singapore-based company was contracted to clean, stock and refuel the Navy ships.
The 60 admirals represent double the number of admirals investigated last year; their identities, however, have yet to be disclosed.
"The release of such information... would likely reveal sensitive details about the breadth and scope of the criminal investigation and pending cases," Commander Mike Kafka, a Navy spokesman, said in a statement.
In 2015, Francis and his company pleaded guilty to bribing Navy officials over a period of 10 years while billing the Navy US$200 million for work in a half dozen ports, according to court documents. As part of his guilty plea, Francis agreed to pay US$35 million in restitution and cooperate with federal prosecutors in the probe.
All of the staff being investigated are charged with conspiracy to commit bribery and wire fraud, and face a maximum of 25 years in prison.