‘Fat Leonard,’ fugitive in U.S. Navy scandal, caught in Venezuela

CARACAS, Venezuela – Authorities in Venezuela have arrested a Malaysian defense contractor known as “Fat Leonard” after he escaped prison in the United States Navy’s worst bribery scandal, Interpol announced today. Wednesday.

The announcement came shortly before his hearing in the United States on a plot of land worth $35 million Attractive scores of Navy officers for many years.

During an investigation discovered a incredible levels of corruption in the Navy, Leonard Glenn Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to bribing officials with cash, sex parties, and gifts to get secret information he can use to scam the Navy.

Interpol Venezuela’s director general, Carlos Gárate Rondón, said on Wednesday that Interpol Venezuela’s director general, Carlos Gárate Rondón, had ended the manhunt for him at Simón Bolívar International Airport in Maiquetía before he could flee. Venezuelan capital. He said the fugitive had come to Venezuela from Mexico, then took up residence in Cuba, en route to his final destination: Russia. Gárate said Francis will be handed over to the judicial authorities to begin the paperwork for the extradition.

Prostitutes, Holidays and Cash: ‘Fat Leonard’ Navy Officials Taken Down

The question now is whether Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro will allow his extradition. The United States does not recognize Maduro’s government as legitimate; countries cut diplomatic relations in 2019. Since then, US prosecutors have prosecuted Maduro and several members of his inner circle on drug terrorism charges.

Maduro has sought relief from US sanctions; Francis can become a useful bargaining chip.

According to Alí Daniels, director of the Venezuelan advocacy group Access to Justice, Venezuelan authorities often arrest Red Notice subjects, including those requested by the United States. He said they care about complying with Interpol notices, so other governments will respond to their announcements.

But extradition is a much more complicated process. Extradition would require US officials to submit paperwork to the Venezuelan Foreign Ministry. It would then have to be approved by the Maduro government. That hasn’t happened since the US government accused Maduro of rigging the election and recognized opposition politician Juan Guaidó as the country’s legitimate president.

A US extradition request, Daniels said, “would be a victory for Maduro,” because they would recognize him as the government of Venezuela. “

Venezuelan intelligence analyst and criminal investigator Iván Simonovis said the arrest demonstrates how “desperate” Nicolás Maduro is to negotiate with the United States.

“Can you imagine how much this man is worth to the regime?” asked Simonovis, a former Venezuelan police chief who was involved in two extradition processes before Hugo Chávez founded the socialist state headed by Maduro. “This is a very high case scenario, ideal for the regime to initiate negotiations.”

There are already signs that relations between the countries are beginning to thaw. Biden administration officials made a rare trip to Maduro’s presidential palace in March to secure the release of two detained Americans and discuss US sanctions on Venezuelan oil, a partly seeking to address rising gas prices and partly promoting relations between Caracas and its close ally. Russia. The government has easy start some restrictions on the main U.S. oil company with assets in Venezuela.

On Thursday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken announced new humanitarian assistance of nearly $376 million “to meet the needs of vulnerable Venezuelans” in Venezuela and abroad.

Geoff Ramsey, Venezuela director at the Washington Office for Latin America, said Francis is “a pretty attractive target for the Biden administration and it’s no secret that the Maduro regime is looking for a prisoner swap.” “. But he said “the Biden administration is unlikely to offer substantial concessions in return.”

Francis, a businessman in Singapore whose company maintains Navy ships, escaped house arrest in San Diego this month by cutting off his GPS bracelet.

Prior to his arrest, the United States Marshals Service and the Naval Criminal Investigative Service came up with a plan to combine $40,000 bonus for information about his whereabouts.

‘Fat Leonard’ escapes weeks before conviction in Navy bribery scandal

US prosecutors charged him with an attempt to defraud the military branch of nearly $35 million through his company, Glenn Defense Marine.

Navy personnel consumed or pocketed an estimated $1 million in bribes, including gourmet meals, Cuban cigars, plane tickets and a party described as “the revolving carous of prostitutes.” erotic”, a Washington Post investigation Find.

In return, Francis offers advice on maritime operations and helps reroute ships to win contracts in the Asia-Pacific region. Bribery also included tickets to a Lady Gaga concert, according to court documents.

Leaks, parties and sex parties: How ‘Fat Leonard’ infiltrated the Navy’s floating headquarters in Asia

The scandal broke out in 2013 sting activity at a hotel in San Diego. After AdmitFrancis – who is known as “Leonard Legend” in some Navy circles – cooperate with prosecutors Build the case against others in the plot.

Criminal charges have been filed against more than 30 people. Hundreds of soldiers – including about 60 admirals – under close supervision. Many people have been cleared of wrongdoing, The Post reported.

Craig Whitlock and María Luisa Paúl contributed to this report.

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