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HomeWorld News'Fats Leonard,' fugitive in U.S. Navy scandal, caught in Venezuela

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

CARACAS, Venezuela — Authorities in Venezuela apprehended the Malaysian protection contractor referred to as “Fats Leonard” after he escaped his sentencing within the U.S. Navy’s worst bribery scandal, Interpol introduced Wednesday.

The announcement got here simply earlier than his listening to in america over a $35 million plot that embroiled scores of Navy officers for a few years.

In an investigation that uncovered a staggering stage of corruption inside the Navy, Leonard Glenn Francis pleaded responsible in 2015 to bribing officers with money, intercourse events and items to get confidential data he may use to defraud the Navy.

The hunt for Francis ended together with his seize at Simón Bolívar Worldwide Airport in Maiquetía earlier than he may flee the Venezuelan capital, Interpol’s Venezuela director normal, Carlos Gáfee Rondón, mentioned Wednesday. He mentioned the fugitive traveled to Venezuela from Mexico, with a layover in Cuba, on his solution to his remaining vacation spot: Russia. Gáfee mentioned Francis can be handed over to judicial authorities to start the paperwork for extradition.

Prostitutes, holidays and money: The Navy officers ‘Fats Leonard’ took down

The query now could be whether or not Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro will enable his extradition. The USA doesn’t acknowledge Maduro’s authorities as reputable; the nations minimize diplomatic relations in 2019. Since then, U.S. prosecutors have indicted Maduro and several other members of his internal circle on fees of narcoterrorism.

Maduro has sought reduction from U.S. sanctions; Francis may turn into a helpful bargaining chip.

Venezuelan authorities typically arrest Pink Discover topics, together with these requested by america, in response to Alí Daniels, director of the Venezuelan advocacy group Entry to Justice. They’ve an curiosity in complying with Interpol notices, he mentioned, so different governments will reply to their notices.

However extradition is a much more sophisticated course of. An extradition would require U.S. officers to submit paperwork to Venezuela’s international ministry. It might then be topic to the Maduro authorities’s approval. That hasn’t occurred because the U.S. authorities accused Maduro of election fraud and acknowledged opposition politician Juan Guaidó because the nation’s reputable president.

A U.S. request for extradition “can be a victory for Maduro,” Daniels mentioned, “as a result of they’d be recognizing him as the federal government of Venezuela.”

Venezuelan intelligence analyst and prison investigator Iván Simonovis mentioned the arrest demonstrates how “determined” Nicolás Maduro is to barter with america.

“Are you able to think about how a lot this man is value to the regime?” requested Simonovis, a former Venezuelan police chief who participated in two extradition processes earlier than Hugo Chávez based the socialist state now headed by Maduro. “It is a very-high profile case, ideally suited for the regime to start to barter.”

There have been indicators relations between the nations are starting to thaw. Biden administration officers made a uncommon journey to Maduro’s presidential palace in March to safe the discharge of two detained Individuals and focus on U.S. sanctions on Venezuelan oil, searching for partly to deal with hovering fuel costs and partly to drive a wedge between Caracas and its shut ally Russia. The administration has begun to ease some restrictions on the principle U.S. oil firm with belongings in Venezuela.

On Thursday, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken introduced almost $376 million in new humanitarian help “to reply to the wants of weak Venezuelans” in Venezuela and overseas.

Geoff Ramsey, Venezuela director on the Washington Workplace on Latin America, mentioned Francis is “fairly a horny goal for the Biden administration and it’s no secret that the Maduro regime has been on the lookout for a jail swap.” However he mentioned “the Biden administration is unlikely to supply important concessions in return.”

Francis, a Singapore-based businessman whose firm serviced Navy ships, fled home arrest in San Diego this month by reducing off his GPS bracelet.

Earlier than his apprehension, the U.S. Marshals Service and the Naval Prison Investigative Service provided a mixed $40,000 reward for data on his whereabouts.

‘Fats Leonard’ escapes weeks earlier than sentencing in Navy bribery scandal

U.S. prosecutors have accused him of an effort to swindle the army department out of almost $35 million by way of his agency, Glenn Protection Marine.

Navy personnel consumed or pocketed about $1 million in bribes, together with connoisseur meals, Cuban cigars, airline tickets and a celebration described as a “rotating carousel of prostitutes,” a Washington Put up investigation discovered.

In return, Francis bought recommendations on marine actions and assist rerouting vessels to win contracts within the Asia-Pacific area. Bribes additionally included tickets to a Girl Gaga live performance, in response to court docket paperwork.

Leaks, feasts and intercourse events: How ‘Fats Leonard’ infiltrated the Navy’s floating headquarters in Asia

The scandal erupted in a 2013 sting operation at a San Diego lodge. After pleading responsible, Francis — who was referred to as “Leonard the Legend” in some Navy circles — cooperated with prosecutors constructing circumstances towards others within the plot.

Prison fees have been filed towards greater than 30 folks. Tons of of army personnel — together with some 60 admirals — got here underneath scrutiny. Many have been cleared of wrongdoing, The Put up has reported.

Craig Whitlock and María Luisa Paúl contributed to this report.



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