Fat Leonard, the boy from Penang who dodged the death penalty and kept US missile secrets
For decades, spies and intelligence agents have worked tirelessly to try all manner of high-tech means to steal private and top-secret military information from countries seen as potential enemies.
But for a young man from Malaysia, gaining access to top US military secrets was a simple matter of illicit gifts and sex parties.
Infiltrating the circle of senior officers, the 300-pound Leonard Glenn Francis, known as Fat Leonard, was able to “move carriers like paper ships through the water,” to use his words in a recent podcast with the Wall Street Journal reporter Tom Wright.
Francis began his career in bribing US military officers when he was invited to a July 4 celebration hosted by the US Embassy in Malaysia, where he met with officers and attachés. Soon after, he received his first contract to provide food for the USS San Bernardino, a tank landing ship that had fought in the Vietnam War.
But before his involvement in the US Navy, he had led an eventful life as a young adult.
In the podcast, he explained how his parents’ lack of advice got him into trouble when police found a gun, foreign currency and a bulletproof vest in his house.
He was thrown in jail, where he said he saw other prisoners being tortured. After two weeks he was brought to justice and sentenced to death. His mother came from England to appeal to the judge.
He also explained how, growing up in Penang in the 1960s, he learned the dirty secrets of port activity, paying bribes to captains of merchant ships.
He would continue to hone these skills to attract naval officers and win breeding contracts through his Singapore-based company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia.
Now under house arrest in San Diego, Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribery and fraud charges. Dozens of other Navy officials have also been investigated and have also pleaded guilty to their involvement in bribes as well as providing classified information to Leonard, including ship movements. , submarine details and ballistic missile blueprints.
His fortune came through America’s “Eternal War” and the War on Terror, as military spending increased, allowing even greater leaks from the corrupt ecosystem.
“You don’t need to overcharge them, they’ll just give you money for free. If someone has a defense contract, you are good for life.
“The military as a whole, whether it’s the navy, the marine corps, the air force, every branch – there’s no one doing tax due diligence because it’s n it’s not their money. It’s Uncle Sam’s money, ”he said in the podcast with Wright.
The US Navy, especially the Seventh Fleet that operates in the Pacific, had relied on his company to provide food, fuel and security. His relationships and networking with authorities in Southeast Asia were key to his commercial success with the US Navy.
The Seventh Fleet oversees the movement of 60 ships and submarines, 150 aircraft and 20,000 sailors.
Francis partnered with an Indonesian company to deliver supplies to the US Navy which began visiting Bali as Subic Bay in the Philippines closed.
“When the ships came back then, we made a really good profit on the port visits. We have done everything for them, from food to fuel, transport and protection of the forces, ”he said, adding that he had to bribe politicians and local authorities.
Between 2006 and 2013, the officers of one particular aircraft, the USS Blue Ridge, were wowed by meals, feasts, liquor, money, vacations, Cuban cigars, furniture and watches. luxury in addition to prostitutes.
François, who is currently awaiting his conviction, admitted to having the commanders “in his pocket”, as well as a network of informants. Senior officials involved included former Lieutenant Commander Edmond A Aruffo and former Director of Navy Intelligence Operations Rear Admiral Bruce Franklin Loveless, the latter having admitted to overcharging the Navy by up to 2.5 million. dollars for port services in Japan.