'Fat Leonard' Really Does Not Want to Return to US

Fugitive seeks asylum in Venezuela, according to anonymous law enforcement official
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 27, 2022 1:00 AM CDT
Updated Sep 27, 2022 5:03 AM CDT
'Fat Leonard' Requests Asylum in Venezuela
FILE - This undated photo provided by the U.S. Marshals Service shows Leonard Francis.   (U.S. Marshals Service via AP, File)

The fugitive defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard" who orchestrated a huge bribery scheme involving dozens of US Navy officials, has requested asylum in Venezuela, a law enforcement official said Monday, nearly a week after he was captured in the South American country. Leonard Glenn Francis slipped away from house arrest in San Diego on Sept. 4, only weeks before he was to be sentenced. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not permitted to speak to the press about the closed proceedings, did not provide any additional details about the Malaysian businessman's moves. By law the Venezuelan government must consider the asylum request, the AP reports.

Francis owned Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. or GDMA, that supplied food, water and fuel to vessels for decades. He has acknowledged overbilling the US Navy by $35 million with the help of dozens of US naval officers whom he plied with prostitutes, Kobe beef, cigars, and other bribes so they would direct their ships to ports Francis controlled in the Pacific in Southeast Asia. Francis, known for his wide girth and big personality, pleaded guilty in 2015 and faced up to 25 years in prison. While awaiting sentencing, he was given home confinement in San Diego to receive medical care as he cooperated with the prosecution, which led to the convictions of 33 of 34 defendants.

US and Venezuelan officials said that Francis cut off his ankle monitor, fled to Mexico, and then made his way to Cuba before turning up in Venezuela. He was arrested there Tuesday before he boarded a flight at the Simon Bolivar International Airport outside Caracas. Venezuelan officials have said he intended to reach Russia. Venezuela and the United States have an extradition agreement, though the Biden administration doesn’t officially recognize President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government, has no embassy in Venezuela, and has imposed crushing sanctions on the country that have further embittered relations. US authorities have 30 days to formally request his extradition.

(More Fat Leonard stories.)

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