Fat Leonard: Malaysian criminal in US Navy scandal recaptured after jail break

By Frances Mao

BBC News

Mugshot of Leonard Glenn Francis in front of an Interpol signImage source, INTERPOL VENEZUELA

Image caption,

‘Fat Leonard’ had been on the run in Cuba, Mexico and was attempting to reach Russia

A Malaysian businessman who scammed the US Navy in its biggest fraud scandal ever has been recaptured after he escaped house arrest two weeks ago.

Leonard Glenn Francis, known as “Fat Leonard”, was captured in Venezuela attempting to board a flight to Russia.

He had been on the run since 4 September, when he fled his California home by cutting off his ankle bracelet.

A global Interpol warrant had been out for his arrest as US authorities tried to track him down.

On Wednesday, the 57-year-old was arrested at Simón Bolívar de Maiquetía airport by Venezuelan authorities.

Interpol says he entered the country from Mexico via a stopover in Cuba. He is due to be extradited back to the US.

Francis escaped house detention just weeks before he was due to face sentencing for his crimes. In 2015, he had admitted to bribery and corruption charges and had been a co-operative witness for prosecutors.

Authorities had allowed him to be detained at home in San Diego because he had suffered bouts of poor health in recent years, including kidney cancer.

However on 4 September, police went to his house after problems with his GPS bracelet were detected.

“Upon arrival they noticed that nobody was home,” a US Marshal spokesman Omar Castillo told reporters at the time.

Neighbours said removal trucks had come in and out of the property in recent weeks, he added.

His recapture is the latest chapter in an embarrassing scandal for the US Navy. The US justice department has described it as a colossal fraud involving tens of millions of dollars.

Francis was the mastermind of a sprawling bribery scheme that operated through his Singapore-based company which serviced the US Navy’s Pacific fleet.

Prosecutors say he overcharged the navy to the tune of $35m (£30m) and plied officers with cash, gourmet meals, cigars, rare liquor and sex parties in luxury hotels.

He was arrested in 2013, and pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering $500,000 (£444,000) in bribes to navy officers to funnel official work towards his shipyards.

Dozens of US naval officers have also been implicated. Four have been convicted so far and at least 27 other contractors and officials have pleaded guilty to accepting bribes.

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