Ex-US admiral charged with bribery for Navy contract

US Navy Admiral Robert Burke. Photo: April 2021
Robert Burke oversaw US naval operations in Europe, Russia and Africa in 2020-22 [Getty Images]

A retired four-star US Navy admiral has been arrested on allegations that he agreed to award a government contract to a company in exchange for a future job with the firm.

Adm Robert Burke, who served as vice-chief of naval operations until 2022, could face up to 30 years in jail if convicted on bribery charges, prosecutors say.

The 62-year-old did not enter a formal plea during his initial court appearance in Miami, Florida, on Friday.

Two business executives of the firm - identified only as Company A - were also arrested. They each could be jailed for up to 20 years.

"As alleged in the indictment, Admiral Burke used his public office and his four-star status for his private gain," US Attorney Matthew M Graves said in a statement on Friday.

"The law does not make exceptions for admirals or CEOs. Those who pay and receive bribes must be held accountable. The urgency is at its greatest when, as here, senior government officials and senior executives are allegedly involved in the corruption," he added.

Adm Burke - who oversaw naval operations in Europe, Russia and Africa from 2020-22 - is charged with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery, and also with performing acts affecting a personal financial interest and concealing material facts from the US.

At the time of his retirement, Adm Burke was the second-highest ranking officer in the US Navy.

His lawyer was quoted by Associated Press as saying his client would plead not guilty during his trial.

The two company executives - Yongchul "Charlie" Kim, 50, and Meghan Messenger, 47 - are charged with bribery and conspiracy to commit bribery.

The prosecutors alleged that they took part in a plan in which the company agreed to hire Adm Burke after his retirement in 2022 with an annual salary of $500,000 (£393,000) and a grant of 100,000 stock options.

They alleged that in return Adm Burke awarded a $355,000 contract to the company to train Navy personnel in 2021 - just two years after the company lost a previous naval training contract.

Prosecutors said Adm Burke awarded the contract after meeting with Mr Kim and Ms Messenger in Washington DC, despite the fact that they had been ordered by naval officials not to contact him.

Officers from the Defense Criminal Investigative Service (DCIS), the Naval Criminal Investigative Service (NCIS), and the FBI’s Washington Field Office are continuing to investigate the case, officials added.