‘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

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