Fugitive in massive Navy corruption case caught in Venezuela

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FILE – This undated photo provided by the US Marshals Service shows Leonard Francis. The Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard”, who orchestrated one of the biggest corruption scandals in US military history, was arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before his sentencing, authorities said on Wednesday 21 September 2022. (Courtesy US Marshals Service via AP, File)

PA

A Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” who orchestrated one of the biggest corruption scandals in US military history has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before his conviction, authorities said Wednesday.

The international manhunt for Leonard Glenn Francis ended with his arrest by Venezuelan authorities on Tuesday morning at Caracas airport as he was about to board a plane for another country, the official said. U.S. Marshals Service.

Interpol Venezuela Director General Carlos Garate Rondon said in a statement posted on Instagram that Francis had come to Venezuela from Mexico. Rondon said he was heading to Russia.

The arrest came on the eve of his scheduled sentencing in California federal court for a bribery scheme that spanned more than a decade and involved dozens of US Navy officers.

It was not immediately known when he might be extradited to the United States.

Francis was under house arrest in San Diego when he cut off his GPS ankle strap and escaped on September 4. Ten US agencies searched for Francis, and authorities issued a $40,000 reward for his arrest.

US authorities have also issued a red notice, which asks law enforcement agencies around the world to provisionally arrest a person with the possibility of extradition. Malaysia and Singapore both have extradition agreements with the United States.

Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering prostitution services, luxury hotels, cigars, gourmet meals and more than $500,000 in bribes to Navy officials and others to help his Singapore-based ship maintenance company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. or GDMA. Prosecutors said the company overcharged the Navy by at least $35 million for maintaining ships, many of which were routed to ports it controlled in the Pacific.

Francis had been allowed to remain housebound to receive medical treatment while he cooperated with the prosecution. With his help, prosecutors secured convictions for 33 of the 34 defendants, including more than two dozen naval officers.

This story was originally published September 22, 2022 12:10 a.m.

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