This is rather serious yet I have not seen anything on FOX News or CNN on this issue. How could that be?
Fat Leonard: A US Navy Scandal and the Pivot to the Pacific
The central player in the largest scandal to rock the US Navy in decades begins his sentencing hearing today amid virtually no media coverage
By Dr. Ian Ralby
Most Americans are aware that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu recently spoke in Congress. We know that a nuclear deal was reached yesterday with Iran. We’ve certainly come to hate the militant movement known as ISIS or ISIL. And we associate the names Al Qaeda, Boko Haram and Al-Shabaab with terror and brutality. But most Americans – even those who have heard of the Obama Administration’s “Pivot to Asia/the Pacific” – will likely not have heard the name “Fat Leonard.” Furthermore, they will not be aware that the big Malaysian defense contractor, whose sentencing hearing begins today in San Diego, is at the center of the largest scandal to hit the US Navy in decades. Blatant corruption – bribes of money, gifts and prostitutes in exchange for classified information leading to highly valuable contracts – has already tainted the careers of five US admirals. Nearly three dozen more admirals remain under investigation, not to mention numerous other officers and enlisted. Ironically, however, the relative invisibility of the Fat Leonard scandal provides strong evidence that we aren’t actually pivoting toward or even paying attention to what is happening in the Pacific.
Leonard Glenn Francis was the CEO of Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marina Asia Group (GDMA). At 6’3” and 350 pounds, he is widely know as “Fat Leonard”. Since at least 2006, he has used personal connections within the US Navy to secure large contracts for GDMA. Navy vessels would call at his terminals and use his husbanding services, paying fees far above the market rate. At the same time, he is alleged to have established and strengthened those personal connections by paying US officials large sums of money, offering them valuable gifts including Cuban cigars, tickets to concerts, Kobe beef and Spanish suckling pigs, and providing them with the services of prostitutes. In return for the bribes, Fat Leonard received classified information that allowed him to routinely win the overpriced contracts. Perhaps even more surprising than the corrupt practices were the efforts made to keep the illicit behavior obscured from oversight. High-level officials involved in the operation repeatedly tipped off anyone who might be in danger of being investigated or discovered, thereby ensuring that the criminal enterprise survived for years.
The scandal broke in 2013 and continues to unfold as investigations and trials proceed. Sentencing hearings are due to begin today for both Fat Leonard and Captain Daniel Dusek who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit bribery. Dusek is the senior most officer to have been formally charged thus far, though three Admirals were censured by the Navy in January and two others received letters of reprimand.
As significant as the scandal is itself, what is perhaps more telling is how little attention it has received. The Obama Administration has articulated its grand strategy as a “pivot to Asia” or “pivot to the Pacific.” As the global economic center of gravity continues to shift eastward, the “pivot” was intended to take the focus off the Middle East – where it has been for decades – and place it on China and its neighborhood. Two individuals responsible for having defrauded the US Navy out of tens of millions of dollars in its operations in the Pacific region, proceed to sentencing today amid virtually no media coverage. Yet the new cycle remains filled with stories from the Middle East, North Africa, Nigeria and yesterday’s tragic attack in Kenya.
As Fat Leonard and Captain Dusek hope for a Good Friday, they can perhaps take some solace in knowing that if the US really had pivoted to the Pacific, they would be getting at least as much attention for their transgressions as Gen. David Petraeus is concerning his – seemingly minor by comparison – violations of law in the Middle East.
Dr. Ian Ralby is Founder and Executive Director of I.R. Consilium through which he provides legally-grounded policy advice and assistance to governments and organizations, often on matters relating to security. He is an expert on the regulation, governance and oversight of private security companies and on issues at the nexus between law and security. He holds a BA in Modern Languages and Linguistics and an MA in Intercultural Communication from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County; a JD from William & Mary Law School; and both an MPhil in International Relations and a PhD in Politics and International Studies from the University of Cambridge.