Officials: Navy bribery case fugitive tried to get to Russia

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San Diego (AP) — Since escape two weeks agoofficials say a fugitive Malaysian defense contractor dubbed “Fat Leonard” — who orchestrated one of the U.S. Navy’s biggest bribery scandals — was forced to find a spot that was virtually out of reach for U.S. officials. It ran between countries.

It almost worked.

U.S. and Venezuelan officials say Leonard Glenn Francis cut off an ankle monitor in San Diego on Sept. 4 and after he emerged from house arrest, crossed the border into Mexico, Cuba and Venezuela, and was arrested on Tuesday. said he was arrested in Simon Bolivar. International airport outside Caracas.

Francis had planned to travel to Russia, according to Interpol Venezuela’s secretary-general Carlos Galate London. .

Former Army attorney Greg Linkey, now in private practice, said he believes Francis was “trying to play the angle of using several countries to get out of the Marshals Service’s jurisdiction.” rice field.

“Just in time,” said Linkie. “Even if he ended up in Russia, I doubt the Russians would have handed him over to us.”

Venezuela and the United States have an extradition agreement, but Washington could face the daunting task of returning the fugitives to the mainland. The Biden administration does not officially recognize President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government, does not have an embassy in Venezuela, and imposes crippling sanctions on Venezuela, which further strains Venezuelan relations. there is Law enforcement cooperation between the two countries is rare.

There was no immediate word on when Francis would be extradited to the US

The arrest took place on the eve of a planned bribery scheme ruling in federal court in California.

Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 and was allowed home arrest to receive medical care while cooperating with the prosecution. I won.

A towering man with a wide girth and outgoing personality It has demonstrated incredible influence as the primary point of contact for U.S. Navy vessels in ports across Asia.His family’s ship services business, Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. (GDMA), has been supplying food, water and fuel to ships for decades. From Thailand to the Philippines, he summoned the cops with Kobe beef, expensive cigars, concert tickets and wild sex parties in luxury hotels. In exchange, the commander gave him classified information to steer ships, mostly from the Navy’s 7th Fleet, to ports he controlled, allowing him to cover up $35 million in fraudulent claims.

Among the people he befriended was a Russian diplomat, Francis told podcaster Tom Wright. In an episode posted last October, Francis lived “a stone’s throw” from the Russian embassy in Singapore, and Russian diplomats uninvited to drop him off with vodka and other gifts. I stopped by my house.

It is unknown whether Francis sought help from his Russian friends while he was lame.

Law enforcement officials familiar with the case told The Associated Press that authorities tracked Francis using the cell phone number provided. Officials said Francis was in the Caracas area on Tuesday.

Venezuelan authorities posted a team of police officers at the airport after a taxi driver informed them that Francis had left the hotel and was heading there.

Officials said Francis had intended to take a flight to Margarita Island in the Caribbean Sea of ​​Venezuela, a popular destination for Russian tourists because of its pristine beaches accessible by ferry or by plane from the mainland. The government announced last month plans to operate five weekly flights between Margarita and Moscow from 1 October. Russian signs can already be seen on the island.

Officials said Francisco later told authorities his final destination was Russia.

It is unclear whether Francis had contacts in Russia who offered assistance, and if he did, what they wanted in return. I was proud of what I was doing.

Francis said in one of the podcast episodes, “What the United States was most worried about was that these officers were corrupted by me.

His sentencing hearings continued on Thursday to address the changing situation.Francis will need a new attorney when he returns.

His attorney, Devin Burstein, told the judge that he planned to file a motion to sever the relationship because “the relationship between the attorney and his client is irretrievably broken.” Burstein does not mention the client’s arrest in Venezuela.

And when Francis returned, prosecutors asked the court to note that he did not attend his sentencing hearing as ordered, suggesting he faces an even longer sentence. If he was eventually prosecuted for failing to show up, that could add five years to his potential 25-year sentence.

U.S. District Judge Janice Sammartino has set a situation hearing for Francis for December 14, with the caveat that all parties could meet sooner depending on how the case unfolds.

“This chain of events will cause some problems and will obviously affect other cases,” she said.

Sentencing hearings for the four Navy officers who were tried and convicted in the case are scheduled for October.

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Garcia Cano reported from Caracas, Venezuela. His AP writer Joshua Goodman in Miami contributed to this report.

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