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Ex-Naval attache admits securing clearances for bribes

Associated Press Associated Press 16/11/2016 By JULIE WATSON, Associated Press

SAN DIEGO — A former U.S. Naval attache to the U.S. embassy in the Philippines illicitly secured diplomatic clearances for a Malaysian defense contractor in exchange for luxury watches and the services of prostitutes, pleading guilty to bribery charges Tuesday in the Navy's worst corruption scandal.

Retried Navy Capt. Michael Brooks, 57, is the latest of nearly a dozen current and former Navy officials charged in the corruption case involving Leonard Francis, the CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia, or GDMA, whose company serviced Navy ships in Asia for 25 years and overbilled the maritime branch by nearly $35 million. Neither Brooks nor his lawyer could be reached for comment.

According to the plea agreement, Brooks, who served as the U.S. naval attache in Manila from 2006 to 2008, secured quarterly diplomatic clearances under the U.S. embassy for the vessels of Francis' company to travel in and out of the Philippines without being subjected to inspections. It also limited the amount of taxes and customs fees the company had to pay.

Shortly thereafter, Francis, nicknamed "Fat Leonard" because of his large size, paid for a stretch limousine to take one of Brooks' family members to a social event, according to court documents.

Brooks also submitted a Navy performance evaluation in 2007 that was ghostwritten by GDMA, and provided the company Navy ship schedules and the billing information of competitors. The evaluation in 2007 described GDMA's services as "exceptional" and "never before experienced in the Phillipines," according to court documents. It added that GDMA delivered "world class service in any location," while "previous husbanding contractors struggled to perform in seemingly routine locations."

Brooks sent emails to Navy contracting officials advocating for GDMA, according to court documents.

Francis gave Brooks and his family fine wines, luxury watches and others gifts totaling more than $15,000, prosecutors said. The two discussed prostitutes, calling them "high tea" or "chocolate shakes" in emails.

He could face up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine when he is scheduled to be sentenced in February 2017.

Francis has also pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing.

A total of 16 people have been charged in the case.

Brooks retired from the Navy in 2011.

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