Venezuela arrests ‘Fat Leonard’ contractor in US Navy bribery case

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(Reuters) – Venezuelan police have arrested a fugitive Malaysian businessman nicknamed “Fat Leonard,” who is at the center of a major U.S. Navy corruption scandal, as he prepares to leave the country for Russia, said the Venezuelan Interpol.

Leonard Glenn Francis was arrested at the country’s main international airport on Wednesday under a red notice requested by the United States for crimes of corruption and bribery, the head of Interpol in Venezuela said in a statement posted on Instagram.

The Malaysian businessman removed his surveillance bracelet and escaped from house arrest in the United States earlier this month ahead of his impending sentencing, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported.

Prosecutors in the case said that in exchange for classified information and contracts, Francis offered naval officers cash, gourmet food, expensive cigars, rare cognac and wild sex parties in luxury hotels.

Francis pleaded guilty to bribery in January 2015 and agreed to give up $35 million in ill-gotten gains. According to this plea agreement, Francis paid approximately $500,000 in bribes to Navy officials.

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He arrived in Venezuela from Mexico, with a stopover in Cuba, and planned to continue to Russia, according to the Interpol statement. Authorities will now initiate his extradition process, he added.

US authorities did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

(Reporting by Joan Faus, editing by Aislinn Laing and Frank Jack Daniel)

Copyright 2022 Thomson Reuters.

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