Two charged in US Navy bribery case

US - A third US Navy commander and prominent Malaysian business leader Leonard Francis were charged on Wednesday in a widening bribery scandal involving prostitutes, luxury travel and multi-million-dollar government contracts, officials said.

Commander Jose Luis Sanchez, 41, was arrested on Tuesday in Tampa, Florida, and made a first appearance in federal court in Florida on Wednesday.

He was charged with taking payoffs from a foreign defence contractor in exchange for classified and internal US Navy information, the Justice Department said in a statement.

Also named in a complaint unsealed on Wednesday was Francis, 49, the CEO of Glenn Defence Marine Asia (GDMA), the department said. He was arrested on Sept 16 in San Diego, California.

Meanwhile, GDMA executive Alex Wisidagama, 40, of Singapore, has also been charged with participating in a related scheme to overbill the Navy for services provided in ports across South-east Asia, the department said.

"According to court records, Sanchez allegedly provided Francis with internal Navy information, such as US Navy ship schedules - some of which were classified - and information about husbanding issues that could affect GDMA, in order to help GDMA win and maintain Navy business," the statement added.

"According to the allegations in this case, a number of officials were willing to sacrifice their integrity and millions of taxpayer dollars for personal gratification," said US Attorney Laura Duffy.

Two other top Navy officials - Commander Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 46, and Naval Criminal Investigative Service supervisory special agent John Bertrand Beliveau II, 44 - have been charged separately in connection with bribery allegations.