A FORMER Malaysian businessman convicted in one of the US Navy’s largest bribery schemes has been detained by the authorities in Venezuela after escaping house arrest in the US more than two weeks ago.
NBC News reported that Leonard Glenn Francis, a Penangite also known as Fat Leonard, was arrested yesterday after Venezuelan authorities were informed by Interpol that he was on the run.
A US Marshals spokesman said Francis was attempting to board a plane to fly to another country. He will remain in custody in Venezuela while US authorities arrange his extradition.
The spokesman said Francis had removed his GPS monitoring bracelet on Sept 4.
San Diego police had been asked to perform a welfare check on him, but found that he was not there when they arrived at his house.
Francis, who ran military contracting firm Glenn Defense Marine Asia from Singapore, was arrested in San Diego in 2013 as part of a federal operation.
His company serviced visiting US Navy ships in ports that he controlled across Southeast Asia. He was found guilty of bribing navy officials for their influence and access to military intelligence, allowing him to earn millions of dollars from navy contracts.
He pleaded guilty in 2015 to his charges, including swindling the navy out of at least US$35 million in overcharges, and was subsequently incarcerated.
In 2018, he was released from prison to serve house arrest following several bouts of health issues, including kidney cancer. He had been under the supervision of Pretrial Services, a US federal agency that monitors defendants who are out of custody until sentencing.
Francis then worked as a cooperating witness for federal prosecutors who continued to build cases against several others involved in the scheme, including high-ranking naval officers.
Reports said that due to this cooperation, his sentencing date had been put off for years as he assisted prosecutors and prepared for what was expected to be his star turn on the witness stand in the trial earlier this year against five former naval officers.
However, he was never called to the stand, while four of the officers were convicted, and the jury deadlocked on charges against the fifth. Twenty-nine others, including navy officials, defence contractors, Francis and his corporation, have pleaded guilty.
His escape had come a little under three weeks before his sentencing, slated for Sept 22.