Fugitive Leonard Glenn “Fat Leonard” Francis, who was allegedly behind one of the largest bribery scandals to hit the U.S. Navy, was arrested in Venezuela on Tuesday after successfully evading American authorities for two weeks.
According to authorities, the Malaysian businessman was under house arrest in San Diego, California, when he managed to cut off his ankle monitor on Sept. 4 and travel across the Mexican border. From Mexico, Leonard traveled to Cuba and eventually made his way to Venezuela. Francis was apprehended at Simón Bolívar International Airport in the city of Maiquetía.
Interpol Venezuela Director General Carlos Garate Rondon posted details about the arrest on Instagram, noting that Francis was going to board a plane to Russia before his arrest.
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Francis is set to be turned over to the country’s judicial authorities to initiate extradition proceedings. It is not immediately known what date Francis might be extradited to the U.S.
Experts noted that Francis was captured just in time as Russia could potentially have turned down an extradition request from the U.S.
The extradition process with Venezuela could also face some challenges since President Biden’s administration does not officially recognize the socialist government run by President Nicolas Maduro.
While the U.S. has an extradition agreement with Venezuela, there is currently no American embassy in the country.
Prior to his escape, Francis was set to be sentenced in a federal court in California last Wednesday for the bribery case he pleaded guilty to in 2015.
Francis was allowed to remain in home confinement while receiving medical attention and helping the prosecution secure convictions of 33 of 34 defendants, including over two dozen Navy officials. During his tenure as president/CEO of Singapore-based defense contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), Francis allegedly bribed a significant number of officers from the Navy’s 7th Fleet with cash, travel expenses, luxury items and prostitutes, among other things.
The bribes were purportedly given in exchange for classified information detailing the movements of U.S. ships and submarines, confidential contracts and the eventual law enforcement investigations into GDMA.
Despite his non-appearance, Francis’ sentencing hearing was held Thursday to address the recent incident.
Prosecutors have indicated that should Francis get charged for his failure to appear at his sentencing hearing, his potential sentence of 25 years could have another five years added to it. He will require new lawyers upon his return.