Fugitive in massive Navy bribery case arrested in Venezuela

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SAN DIEGO — A Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard”, who orchestrated one of the biggest bribery scandals in US military history, has been arrested in Venezuela after he fled before being convicted, authorities said on Wednesday.

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

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The arrest came on the eve of his scheduled conviction in a California federal court for a bribery scheme that lasted more than a decade and involved dozens of U.S. Navy officers.

There was no immediate word on when he could be extradited to the United States.

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

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The US authorities have also issued a red notice, asking law enforcement officers worldwide to provisionally arrest someone 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 naval officials and others for his Singapore-based ship services company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. or GDMA, to help. Prosecutors said the company overcharged the Navy by at least $35 million to maintain ships, many of which were forwarded to ports it controlled in the Pacific.

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Francis had been allowed to remain under house arrest to receive medical care while working with the prosecution. With his help, prosecutors secured the convictions of 33 of the 34 defendants, including more than two dozen naval officers.