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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - More bribery charges for Khmer-American US Navy commander

More bribery charges for Khmer-American US Navy commander

A Cambodian-born US naval officer was smacked by US federal courts on Wednesday with seven new counts of bribery following his alleged involvement in a massive corruption racket that traded state secrets for personal kickbacks.

Formerly touted by the US military as an emblem of the American dream, Kandal native Michael Vannak Khem Misiewicz, 47, escaped the Khmer Rouge at the age of 6 to become the first of five senior US officials arrested in a ballooning graft sting. He was arrested in 2013.

Misiewicz is accused of using his position as commander of a US fleet to influence the procurement of overbilled contracts and to relay classified information for the benefit of a co-conspirator at a Singapore-based company, according to Wednesday’s indictment.

In exchange for the intel, the defence contractor’s CEO Leonard Francis allegedly provided bribes in the form of luxury travel, prostitutes and, on one occasion, tickets to a Lady Gaga concert in Thailand.

“This is an unfortunate example of dishonorable Naval officers who recklessly risked the safety of our troops by trading classified information for cash, extravagant gifts and prostitutes. Cases such as these are not motivated by need or other difficult personal circumstances; they are the product of simple greed,” James Burch, a deputy inspector at the US Defense Department, said in a statement.

Francis’ company, Glenn Defense Marine, provided “husbanding” services to the US Navy for over two dozen years, including tugboats, port schedules and supplying fuel.

In 2011, when Misiewicz allegedly began conspiring with the company, Glenn Defense was awarded Navy contracts worth more than $200 million, courts documents show.

Glenn Defense “has built a business empire based on defrauding the United States,” the documents say, while also showing that Misiewicz was targeted by the CEO upon graduating from naval academy as someone susceptible to favour trading.

Misiewicz’s personal story was championed by the US Navy in 2010, when his assignment as fleet commander brought him back to his birth place 37 years after he was adopted by an American woman serving in the US Army.

Misiewicz is the only one of the five arrested officials involved in the ongoing cases who has not pleaded guilty.

If convicted, he could be sentenced to life imprisonment.

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