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US navy scammer ‘Fat Leonard’ seeks asylum in Venezuela after fleeing house arrest

The Malaysian businessman behind the US navy’s biggest fraud scandal ever had been on the run since September 4

Leonard "Fat Leonard" Francis is seen in this undated photo released by the U.S. Marshals Service. Photo: U.S. Marshals Service

Leonard Francis aka "Fat Leonard". Photo: US Marshals

Neasa CumiskeySunday World

The Malaysian businessman behind the US navy’s biggest fraud scandal ever is seeking asylum in Venezuela after escaping house arrest.

Leonard Glenn Francis, known as “Fat Leonard”, had been on the run since September 4 when he fled his San Diego home after cutting off his ankle bracelet.

A global Interpol warrant for his arrest was issued with a $40,000 reward for his capture, officials said.

The 57-year-old was arrested at Simón Bolívar de Maiquetía airport by Venezuelan authorities as he attempted to board a flight to Russia.

Leonard Francis aka "Fat Leonard". Photo: US Marshals

Interpol said Francis entered the South American country from Mexico via a stopover in Cuba. He is due to be extradited back to the US.

Now, “Fat Leonard” is requesting asylum in Venezuela - a plea the country's government must consider by law.

Francis was first arrested in 2013 when he was accused of bribing US navy officers to help his Singapore-based company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd or GDMA, which supplied food, water, and fuel to vessels for decades.

Prosecutors said he overcharged the US military by more than $35m for services with the help of a number of US naval officers.

He bribed the officers with prostitutes, cash, cigars, liquor, expensive food and other incentives to redirect their military ships to ports he controlled in the Pacific in Southeast Asia.

He pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering $500,000 in bribes to navy officers and faced 25 years in prison in a sentencing set for September 22.

While awaiting sentencing, he was granted home confinement in California as he cooperated with authorities, leading to convictions of 33 out of 34 defendants and over two dozen Navy officials.

US authorities now have until mid-October to formally request Francis’ extradition.

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