A Malaysian defence contractor – popularly known as “Fat Leonard” – who orchestrated one of the largest bribery scandals in United States military history has been arrested in Venezuela.
An international manhunt was launched for Leonard Glenn Francis earlier this month after he fled the US ahead of his scheduled sentencing for his role in the massive bribery scandal involving dozens of US naval officials.
The hunt ended with Francis’s arrest by Venezuelan authorities on Tuesday morning at Caracas airport as he was about to board an aeroplane for another country, the US Marshals Service said on Wednesday.
Carlos Garate Rondon, the director general of Venezuela’s office of the international police agency Interpol, said in a statement posted on Instagram that Francis came to Venezuela from Mexico and that he was headed onward to Russia.
He had also made a stop-over in Cuba, the Interpol chief said, adding that Francis would be handed over to judicial authorities in preparation for his extradition.
Francis’s 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 confined to home arrest in San Diego when he cut off his GPS ankle bracelet and escaped on September 4. Ten US agencies have searched for Francis and a $40,000 reward was offered by the US Marshals Service and the NCIS [Naval Criminal Investigative Service].
US authorities also issued an Interpol red notice, which asks law enforcement worldwide to provisionally arrest someone with the possibility of extradition. It was thought that Francis had fled to Mexico as the first step in a journey that might return him to Asia.
Malaysia and Singapore both have extradition agreements with the US. (Aljazeera)