SAN DIEGO (AP) – A Malaysian defence contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” who orchestrated one of the largest bribery scandals in the United States (US) military history has been arrested in Venezuela after fleeing before his sentencing, authorities said on Wednesday.
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.
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 September 4.
Ten US agencies searched for Francis and authorities issued a USD40,000 reward for his arrest.
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 USD500,000 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 USD35 million for servicing ships, many of which were routed to ports he controlled in the Pacific.
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.