Local media reported that Leonard Glenn Francis asked to stay in Venezuela for health and political reasons.
A fugitive Malaysian defense contractor nicknamed ‘Fat Leonard’ who orchestrated a massive bribery scheme involving dozens of US Navy officials, has sought asylum in Venezuela nearly a week after his arrest in the southern country -American.
Leonard Glenn Francis, arrested on September 21 at Caracas International Airport as he prepared to leave for Russia, appeared in court the day after his arrest and announced that he wished to remain in Venezuela for medical and political reasons, local media reported Monday.
Venezuelan government-allied newspaper Ultimas Noticias, citing judicial sources in its report, said Francis told the hearing that he wanted to seek political asylum and that he was suffering from metastatic kidney cancer.
Agencia Venezuela News also published the Ultimas Noticias report, adding that Francis told the court that he wanted to stay in Venezuela and be reunited with his wife and family.
For kidney cancer, Fat Leonard seeks political assistance in Venezuela https://t.co/zqObW3AvQ6
— Venezuela Agency News (@AgenciaVN_) September 26, 2022
Neither Venezuela’s information ministry nor the attorney general’s office immediately responded to a request for comment.
By law, the Venezuelan government must examine the asylum request.
Francis fled his home in San Diego, California on September 4, just weeks before he was convicted in a corruption case in which he admitted overcharging the US Navy by $35 million with the help of dozens of US Navy officers.
Francis admitted to providing prostitutes, luxury travel, expensive meals and cigars, and other bribes to Navy officials who, in turn, directed U.S. Navy ships to controlled ports by Francis in Southeast Asia.
Owner of Singapore-based Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd, which has supplied warships with food, water and fuel for decades, Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 and faces up to 25 years in prison.
While awaiting sentencing, he was housebound in San Diego to receive medical treatment while cooperating with the prosecution, which led to the conviction of 33 of the 34 defendants.
After he removed a GPS ankle monitor and fled his home, the United States issued an Interpol Red Notice request for his arrest, which led to his capture in Caracas last week.
Francis had arrived in Venezuela via Mexico and Cuba, and planned to continue on to Russia, the Venezuelan office of Interpol said in a statement.
Although the administration of US President Joe Biden does not officially recognize the socialist government of Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro, Venezuela and the United States have reached an extradition agreement.
US authorities have 30 days to formally request his extradition.
Washington does not have an embassy in Venezuela and has imposed crushing sanctions on Caracas, further straining relations between the two countries.
That Maduro could use Francis’ extradition as a bargaining chip to have sanctions reduced or lifted by Washington has been mooted in Venezuela and abroad.
— Venezuela Agency News (@AgenciaVN_) September 23, 2022
Agencia Venezuela News tweeted a cartoon over the weekend depicting Maduro holding a basketball with the name “Fat Leonard” above Uncle Sam’s head.
Neither U.S. nor Venezuelan officials have yet commented on Francis’ asylum request.