Singapore court allows extradition in US Navy bribery case

Singapore - A Singapore court approved Wednesday the extradition of two former defence contractor executives at the heart of a bribery scandal that has rocked the US Navy.

Linda Raja and Neil Peterson used to work at Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), whose owner Leonard Glenn Francis is awaiting US sentencing after admitting his port-services company plied officers with cash, prostitutes and other perks to ensure US Navy ships stopped at ports where GDMA operated.

They are accused of conspiring with Francis - known in maritime circles as "Fat Leonard" because of his girth - to defraud the US Navy by submitting more than US$5 million (S$6.8 million) in false claims and invoices.

The pair's extradition to the US now requires the go-ahead from Singapore's law minister.

"I commit them to prison to await the warrant of extradition from the Minister," a district judge who heard their case said in court Wednesday.

Singaporean Raja and Peterson, a Malaysian with permanent residency in the city-state, have a two-week grace period to apply for a case review but their lawyers said their clients have no intention of fighting extradition.

The two were charged in absentia in San Diego over the scandal, which has tarnished top US naval officers, a US Department of Justice statement said.

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The US in late 2015 sent an extradition request to Singapore and Raja and Peterson were arrested in July.

Peterson, 38, was the Singapore-based firm's vice president for global operations and Raja, 43, was the general manager for Singapore, Australia and the Pacific islands, the US justice department said.

A total of 16 individuals have been charged in connection with the GDMA investigation, including 11 current or former US Navy officials.

In June, Rear Admiral Robert Gilbeau - the highest-ranking US Navy officer charged in the probe - pleaded guilty to lying about his relationship with GDMA.

Gilbeau admitted before a federal judge in San Diego that he had lied when he told investigators he had never received gifts from Francis.