SAN DIEGO — The fugitive defense contractor nicknamed “Fat Leonard” who orchestrated a massive bribery scheme involving dozens of US naval officials has applied for asylum in Venezuela, a law enforcement officer said Monday, nearly a week after he arrived in the South American country captured. .
Leonard Glenn Francis escaped house arrest in San Diego on September 4, just weeks before he was due to be sentenced. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity as he was not allowed to speak to the press about the closed proceedings, did not provide further details about the Malaysian businessman’s movements. According to the law, the Venezuelan government must consider the asylum application.
Francis owned Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. or GDMA, which has supplied ships with food, water and fuel for decades. He has acknowledged that he overbilled the US Navy by $35 million with the help of dozens of US Navy officers whom he bribed with prostitutes, Kobe beef, cigars and other bribes so that they could send their ships to Francis-controlled ports in the Pacific Ocean into Southeast Asia.
Known for his wide girth and big personality, Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 and faced up to 25 years in prison. While awaiting sentencing, he was placed under house arrest in San Diego to receive medical care while cooperating with the prosecution, leading to the convictions of 33 of the 34 defendants.
US and Venezuelan officials said Francis cut off his anklet, fled to Mexico and then went to Cuba before showing up in Venezuela. He was arrested there on Tuesday before boarding a flight at Simon Bolivar International Airport outside Caracas. Venezuelan officials have said he planned to reach Russia.
Venezuela and the United States have an extradition deal, although the Biden administration does not officially recognize President Nicolas Maduro’s socialist government, has no embassy in Venezuela and has imposed crushing sanctions on the country that has further embittered relations.
The US authorities have 30 days to formally request his extradition. In an email, a Justice Department spokesman said the agency would not comment on rendition issues.
The US law firm declined to comment when asked about Francis’s asylum application in Venezuela.