‘Fats Leonard’ could also be Venezuela bargaining chip, professionals say

SAN DIEGO (AP) — A fugitive protection contractor nicknamed “Fats Leonard” who claims to have incriminating intercourse footage of U.S. Military brass may just transform the most recent bargaining chip in Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s efforts to win reliable popularity from the Biden management, in keeping with professionals.

Nevertheless it’s unclear how onerous the U.S. authorities will battle for the go back of Leonard Glenn Francis, the Malaysian proprietor of a boat servicing corporate in Southeast Asia who’s the central persona in one of the crucial biggest bribery scandals in Pentagon historical past.

He fled house custody in San Diego on Sept. 4 and was once arrested by way of Venezuelan police Tuesday making an attempt to board a flight on the Simon Bolivar Global Airport out of doors Caracas. Francis had his first courtroom look Thursday, in keeping with a regulation enforcement reliable in Venezuela who spoke Friday to The Related Press on situation of anonymity as a result of he was once now not licensed to talk about judicial complaints.

The reliable, who have been briefed at the case, stated now it’s as much as the USA to make the next step. U.S. government have 30 days to officially request his extradition, one thing that the reliable seen as not likely for the reason that the Biden management acknowledges opposition chief Juan Guaido — now not Maduro — as the rustic’s reputable ruler.

Venezuela and the USA have an extradition settlement but it surely’s now not transparent if U.S. government have made a proper request. In an electronic mail, a Division of Justice spokesperson stated the company does now not touch upon extradition-related issues. Even beneath customary cases, extraditions can take many months and even years to finish.

The Biden management doesn’t formally acknowledge Maduro’s socialist authorities, has no embassy in Venezuela and has imposed crushing sanctions at the nation that experience additional embittered family members.

U.S. indictments towards Maduro and several other individuals of his internal circle on narco-terrorism or cash laundering fees has been a big irritant between the nations. Probably the most severe case comes to businessman Alex Saab, who was once apprehended on a U.S. warrant in 2020 whilst creating a gas forestall in Cape Verde en path to Iran. Maduro considers Saab a Venezuelan diplomat and has spared no effort combating to carry him again.

“I haven’t any doubt the Venezuelans will make hay of (Francis’ arrest), particularly as a result of they have got felt the consequences of the lengthy arm of the U.S. justice machine,” stated David Smilde, an established skilled on Venezuela who teaches at Tulane College.

Francis is the mastermind of an enormous bribery scheme that ensnared dozens of Military officers. Francis admitted to wooing them with intercourse events in Asia in trade for categorised knowledge on Military send routes that he used to learn his Singapore-based corporate.

Francis pleaded responsible in 2015 and confronted as much as 25 years in jail. Whilst looking forward to sentencing, he was once given house confinement in San Diego to obtain hospital treatment. He equipped knowledge to U.S. prosecutors that secured the convictions of 33 of 34 defendants.

However with the case nearing its finish and his sentencing listening to simply weeks away, he bring to a halt his ankle track and disappeared around the border into Mexico. Venezuelan government say he then went to Cuba after which Venezuela, and was once making plans to visit Russia when he was once apprehended.

In his heyday, the towering guy with a large girth and gregarious persona wielded large affect as a primary level of touch for U.S. Military ships throughout Asia. His circle of relatives’s send servicing industry, Singapore-based Glenn Protection Marine Asia Ltd. or GDMA, provided meals, water and gas to vessels for many years.

He plied officials with Kobe red meat, dear cigars, live performance tickets and intercourse events at luxurious accommodations from Thailand to the Philippines. In trade, commanders went so far as steerage their ships, most commonly from the Military’s seventh Fleet, to ports he managed so he may just duvet up up to $35 million in faux fees.

It’s unclear what knowledge, if any, Francis has that would carry additional embarrassment to the U.S. Military. Nonetheless, Smilde stated he wouldn’t be stunned to peer Francis pop up in a Venezuelan-government produced confession video hinting that he has extra salacious main points.

“I’m certain the Venezuelans would enjoyment of that,” he stated.

Neither U.S. nor Venezuelan officers have launched information about how Francis spent his time at the run or what he deliberate to do in Russia, however his travels to a few nations in a length of 2 weeks point out he had get right of entry to to cash and different lend a hand.

It’s unclear if Francis had contacts in Russia providing to give protection to him, and if he did, what they sought after in go back. Francis bragged about nonetheless protecting compromising footage and movies of Military officers.

“What in reality apprehensive the USA probably the most was once those officials being corrupted by way of me, that they’d be corruptible by way of the international powers,” Francis stated in an interview with podcaster Tom Wright, who created a nine-part sequence at the case remaining yr.

Jason Forge, a former federal prosecutor in San Diego excited by high-profile extradition circumstances out of Mexico, stated Francis would possibly attempt to persuade Venezuela that he’s were given one thing to supply, however Forge doubts he actually does. Francis, who was once put beneath space arrest after present process surgical procedures, in keeping with courtroom paperwork, additionally has been a pricey prisoner on account of his failing well being.

“Even assuming he has embarrassing footage and movies of quite a lot of naval officials, until they’re of Hunter Biden at one of the crucial events, I simply don’t see the U.S. being concerned,” he stated, relating to Biden’s son.

U.S. officers indicate that Venezuela doesn’t seem to have stopped Francis on his approach into the rustic and may just simply deport him on their very own with none judicial continuing.


Goodman reported from Miami.

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