US offers reward for fugitive Malaysian contractor ‘Fat Leonard’

Leonard Glenn Francis had pleaded guilty in a $35m bribery case involving US Navy officials.

A United States flag flutters in front of a US Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship [File: Ints Kalnins/Reuters]
A United States flag flutters in front of a US Navy Wasp-class amphibious assault ship [File: Ints Kalnins/Reuters]

United States law enforcement agencies have offered a $40,000 reward for information that leads to the arrest of a Malaysian defence contractor who has fled ahead of sentencing in one of the largest bribery scandals in US military history.

Leonard Glenn Francis – popularly known as “Fat Leonard” – went on the run earlier this month after cutting off a GPS monitor attached to his ankle.

He was scheduled to be sentenced in late September after pleading guilty in 2015 to his role in a $35m bribery case involving senior US Navy officials.

“A reward of up to $40,000 ($20,000 each) is being offered by both the US Marshals Service and NCIS [Naval Criminal Investigative Service] for information directly assisting in the apprehension of Francis,” the US Marshals Service said in a wanted notice that it tweeted on Saturday.

“Francis was facing up to 25 years in prison when he cut off his GPS ankle monitor on September 4, 2022 and fled,” the notice said.

Francis had been allowed to remain in home confinement to receive medical care while he cooperated with prosecutors who, with his help, had secured the convictions of 33 of 34 defendants, including more than two dozen US Navy officers.

Neighbours told police that they had observed U-Haul trucks coming and going from Francis’s home in San Diego days before he disappeared.

Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering prostitution services, luxury travel and hotels, lavish meals and more than $500,000 in bribes to US Navy officials and others to help his Singapore-based ship servicing company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia Ltd. or GDMA, secure lucrative US naval contracts.

Prosecutors said the company then overcharged the navy by at least $35m for servicing US ships, many of which were routed to ports he controlled in the Pacific with the assistance of the officials receiving his bribes.

Ten US agencies are searching for Francis.

But officials acknowledged Francis may already be in Mexico, and possibly on his way back to Asia.

US authorities have issued a red notice for Francis, which asks law enforcement worldwide to provisionally arrest someone with the possibility of extradition.

Malaysia and Singapore have extradition agreements with the US.

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies