‘Fat Leonard’, fugitive contractor in US navy’s worst corruption scandal, arrested in Venezuela

Malaysian defence contractor fled before sentencing in US over bribery scheme that lasted more than a decade and involved dozens of US navy officers

A Malaysian defence contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” who orchestrated one of the largest bribery scandals in US military history has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before his sentencing, authorities say.

The international manhunt for Leonard Glenn Francis ended with his arrest by Venezuelan authorities on Tuesday morning at the Caracas airport as he was about to board an airplane for another country, the US Marshals Service said on Wednesday.

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

There was no immediate word on when he might be extradited to the US.

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

Leonard Francis, also known as Fat Leonard, in an undated photo
Leonard Francis, also known as Fat Leonard, allegedly cut off his GPS ankle monitor and left his home early this month. Photograph: AP

US authorities also issued a red notice, which asks law enforcement worldwide to provisionally arrest someone with the possibility of extradition. Malaysia and Singapore both have extradition agreements with the US.

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 servicing company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd or GDMA. Prosecutors said the company overcharged the Navy by at least $35m for servicing ships, many of which were routed to ports he controlled in the Pacific.

Officers involved in the scam called themselves the Lion’s King Harem, Brotherhood, Wolfpack as they sought to recruit others to the scam, according to prosecutors.

Francis had been allowed to remain in home confinement to receive medical care while he cooperated with the prosecution. With his help, prosecutors secured convictions of 33 of 34 defendants, including more than two dozen Navy officers.

Four navy officers have been found guilty in relation to the scandal. A further 29 people, including naval officials, contractors and Francis, had pleaded guilty, US media said.

With Associated Press

Guardian staff and agencies

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
US Marshals Services face questions after ‘Fat Leonard’ flees house arrest
Leonard Francis, contractor in US navy’s worst corruption scandal, was able not only to escape but also rented vans to load up his possessions

Julian Borger in Washington

06, Sep, 2022 @10:20 PM

Article image
New Zealand navy paid $700,000 to firm mired in ‘Fat Leonard’ sex and bribery scandal
Exclusive: Royal New Zealand Navy says no investigation opened following US military bribery case

Oliver Holmes in Bangkok and Eleanor Ainge Roy in Dunedin

22, May, 2017 @12:22 AM

Article image
London law firm did PR for Malaysian fugitive accused of corruption
Schillings, which represents the Duchess of Sussex, was paid $1.3m for work for Jho Low, financier at centre of 1MDB scandal

Harry Davies

06, Jul, 2020 @11:00 AM

Article image
Goldman Sachs pays $3.9bn to settle 1MDB corruption scandal
Malaysian finance minister hails return of ‘assets that rightfully belong to the people’

Mark Sweney

24, Jul, 2020 @12:31 PM

Article image
Najib Razak charged with money laundering over 1MDB scandal
Former Malaysian PM faces multiple counts in what has been called the country’s biggest ever corruption case

Staff and agencies

08, Aug, 2018 @3:03 AM

Article image
China syndrome dictates Barack Obama's Asia-Pacific strategy | Simon Tisdall

Simon Tisdall: Obama has no wish to conjure the spectre of a new cold war but is determined to beat back any Chinese bid for

Simon Tisdall

06, Jan, 2012 @6:54 PM

Article image
Pearl Harbor’s role in the fall of the British empire | Letters
Letters: The reason the US fleet was attacked by the Japanese was to prevent its warships and aircraft from coming to the aid of Singapore


29, Dec, 2016 @6:26 PM

Article image
Missing Malaysia Airlines flight MH370 search area widened to Indian Ocean

Authorities admit they have not discounted any possibilities almost seven days after the airliner vanished

Kate Hodal in Songkhla, Tania Branigan in Beijing and Gwyn Topham in London

13, Mar, 2014 @6:49 PM

Article image
Malaysian PM claims there was no wrongdoing in 1MDB scandal
Najib Razak blames ‘problematic business model’ for loss of billions from government fund

Hannah Ellis-Petersen

26, Apr, 2018 @12:51 PM

Article image
Kim Jong-nam killing: the arrested, the wanted, and people of interest
Who are the people arrested and sought in connection with the assassination of the North Korean leader’s half-brother?

Oliver Holmes South-east Asia correspondent

07, Mar, 2017 @5:11 AM