Prime Minister Bill English says he doubts any New Zealand public servants would have got involved in shenanigans with Leonard Glenn Francis, the Malaysian defence contractor known as Fat Leonard who has been jailed in the US for cheating the US navy out of almost US$34 million (NZ$49m).

The Royal New Zealand Navy paid just over $710,000 to Francis's company Glenn Defence Marine Asia (GDMA) between May 2007 to December 2011 "for specific ship visits in South East Asia", a Navy spokesman told the Herald.

The services included tugs, provision of buses and rubbish collection which the spokesman said were routinely acquired for most port visits.

He said there had not been an investigation into its relationship with GDMA and did not intend to.


"The services were purchased as required under local agreements, including with the host nation and using NZDF purchase orders."

The RNZN had no standing or enduring contract with GDMA, he said.

Some 20 current and former US Navy officials have been charged so far, while 10 have pleaded guilty, mostly for bribes involving lavish trips and sex workers in return for routing ships to ports where Francis could overcharge for ship husbandry services, The Guardian has reported.

Leonard Glenn Francis AKA Fat Leonard. Photo / File
Leonard Glenn Francis AKA Fat Leonard. Photo / File

Francis, known as Fat Leonard because of his girth, was arrested in 2013 after being lured to the US. He pleaded guilty in 2015 and faces up to two decades in prison, the report said.

"It's a matter for the Navy to sort out," English said at his post-Cabinet media conference. "Just because there are allegations doesn't mean something happened. I would be very surprised if any New Zealand public servants was involved in something of that nature."

The Washington Post reported last year that Francis admitted to bribing "scores" of Navy officials with cash, sex and gifts worth millions of dollars to win defence contracts and overcharge with impunity. That report said Glenn Defense was "a pillar of US maritime operations for a quarter-century" and that the 7th Fleet "depended on the firm more than any other to refuel and resupply its vessels".