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Businessman in Navy bribery case held without bail

Nov. 26, 2013 - 08:07AM   |  
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SAN DIEGO — A Malaysian businessman at the heart of a multimillion-dollar Navy bribery case was ordered held without bail Monday with a federal judge saying his wealth and international connections made him an extreme flight risk.

U.S. District Judge Janis Sammartino ordering that defense contractor Leonard Francis be held at least until his trial.

In a tentative decision last week, a U.S. magistrate judge found that Francis, who has pleaded not guilty, could be freed on $1 million bail under heavy restrictions including GPS surveillance and a 24-hour guard, but the magistrate stayed the decision until a district judge could rule.

In arguing for the denial, prosecutors had pointed out that Francis would be staying in San Diego, just 15 minutes from the U.S.-Mexico border.

They said in a court filing that for Francis, “who was able to corrupt high-ranking Navy officials into violating their sworn duties, finding a way to buy 15 minutes would be child’s play.”

Defense attorney Pat Swan said he will consider appealing the decision to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Swan told U-T San Diego outside court that home detention was essential for Francis so that he could continue working.

Francis, the 49-year-old CEO of Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd., is the central figure in a multimillion bribery case that has been rocking the Navy. He was arrested in San Diego in September on charges that he offered luxury travel, prostitution services and other bribes to Navy officers in exchange for confidential information, including ship routes, that prosecutors say he used to overbill the Navy for port services in Asia.

Three Naval officers have been charged in addition to Francis and his cousin, a company manager. All have pleaded not guilty. The Navy suspended access to classified material for two admirals, who are on temporarily leave while the probe continues.

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