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Former U.S. Naval Attaché gave Fat Leonard’s boats diplomatic cover

A retired Navy Captain who served as the U.S. Naval Attaché to the Philippines pleaded guilty Tuesday for helping a Singapore-based defense contractor avoid vessel and cargo inspections by using diplomatic cover.

Michael Brooks, 57, of Fairfax Station, Virginia appeared in federal court in San Diego. He pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit bribery.

Brooks is scheduled to be sentenced on February 17. He was charged in May.

From June 2006 to July 2008, Brooks served as the U.S. Naval Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Manila.

He took travel and entertainment expenses, hotel rooms, and the services of prostitutes from Leonard Glenn Francis — also known as Fat Leonard — the former CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA).

In return, Brooks secured quarterly diplomatic clearances for GDMA vessels. That let the vessels transit into and out of the Philippines under the diplomatic cover of the U.S. Embassy. 

With diplomatic clearance, the vessels avoided all cargo inspections in the Philippines. The amount of custom fees and taxes GDMA paid there was also limited. 

Francis, 51, a Malaysian national, has pleaded guilty to bribing scores of U.S. Navy officials with travel, meals, cash, electronics, parties, and prostitutes.

His Singapore-based company provided Navy ships with food, water, cleaning, and other port services in Asia.

According to the Navy, Attachés serve as military advisors to U.S. Ambassadors. They report on in-country and regional political-military activities. Attachés also support “U.S. military security cooperation and/or security assistance programs.”

The DOJ said Tuesday that Brooks allowed Francis to ghostwrite official U.S. Navy documents and correspondence, which Brooks submitted as his own. 

Brooks also gave Fat Leonard sensitive U.S. Navy ship schedules and billing information belonging to a GDMA competitor.    

So far, sixteen defendants have been charged in the Fat Leonard case. Of those, 11 are current or former U.S. Navy officials.

Ten defendants have pleaded guilty. Five have been sentenced.

The longest sentence was imposed on former NCIS special agent John Beliveau. He was jailed 12 years for giving Francis confidential NCIS reports about investigations into him and his company.

The highest-ranking officer charged in the case is Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau. He pleaded guilty in June to lying to investigators and destroying evidence about his relationship with Francis.

Three other Rear Admirals including the commander of naval forces in Japan retired last year after the Secretary of the Navy censured them for the Fat Leonard scandal.

The DOJ said Tuesday that investigations in the case by the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), and the Defense Contract Audit Agency (DCAA) are ongoing.

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Richard L. Cassin is the publisher and editor of the FCPA Blog.

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