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Another U.S. Navy officer suspended in widening corruption probe

By David Alexander

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. Navy said on Thursday it has suspended the deputy commander of a unit responsible for port and harbor security as a result of allegations in the widening corruption probe involving a Singapore-based defense contractor.

Captain David Haas was suspended as deputy commander of Coastal Riverine Group 1 in San Diego, which is responsible for port security and military operations in rivers, harbors and coastal waterways, the Navy said. He was temporarily reassigned effective to the Expeditionary Training Group staff.

Six Navy officers and a Navy criminal investigator have been touched by allegations in the probe of contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia, whose chief executive, Leonard Glenn Francis, is accused of plying Navy officials with cash, concert tickets and prostitutes in a bid to win business for his firm.

Francis, a 49-year-old Malaysian businessman, was arrested in San Diego on September 16. A federal magistrate granted him $1 million bail on Thursday but stayed her ruling pending a review by another judge, meaning he would have to remain in jail for the time being.

Magistrate Judge Jan Adler also ordered Francis to wear a GPS monitoring device and install a sophisticated home security system that would allow monitoring of his whereabouts.

During a detention hearing in U.S. District Court in San Diego, federal prosecutors objected to his release, saying Francis' wealth and connections would make it easy for him to leave the country.

"He's got the resources, sophistication and world wisdom to go wherever he wants," Assistant U.S. Attorney Robert Huie said. Huie said Francis could also face additional charges.

But defense attorney Pat Swan countered that his client had come back to the U.S. willingly despite knowing that he was under investigation and said he was not likely to go on the lam.

'NOWHERE HE COULD HIDE'

"Mr. Francis is a large man, he is 6 foot 3 and weighs over 300 pounds (136 kg)," Swan said. "He is almost bigger than life. His photo has been shown all over the world. If he were to flee there would be nowhere he could hide."

Glenn Defense Marine Asia is engaged in organizing port visits, providing security, setting up repairs and taking care of other details related to Navy stops at foreign harbors.

In response to the criminal investigation, the Navy has suspended contracts with the firm, which has done business with the Pentagon for some 25 years, that potentially were worth hundreds of millions of dollars.

The most senior officers touched by the probe so far are Vice Admiral Ted Branch, the director of Naval Intelligence, and Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless, the director of Intelligence Operations.

Their access to classified information was suspended earlier this month and they were put on temporary leave due to allegations of "inappropriate conduct." No charges have been filed against them.

U.S. Navy Commander Michael Misiewicz and Navy criminal investigations special agent John Beliveau were arrested on September 16, the same time as Francis, and charged with conspiracy to commit bribery.

Commander Jose Luis Sanchez was arrested and charged earlier this month with accepting prostitutes, luxury travel and $100,000 in cash from Francis.

And Captain Daniel Dusek, former commander of the amphibious assault ship USS Bonhomme Richard, was relieved of his command in October as a result of the investigation, the Navy said. He has not been charged.

Haas, the latest officer touched by the investigation, is former commander of the guided missile frigate USS Thatch and served on the staff of the U.S. Seventh Fleet in Japan from August 2011 to July 2013. He has not been charged with a crime.

(Additional reporting by Marty Graham in San Diego and Dan Whitcomb in Los Angeles; Editing by Eric Beech and Eric Walsh)

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