WASHINGTON: United States law enforcement agencies are on the lookout for Malaysian businessman Leonard Glenn Francis, who is reportedly on the run after he escaped house arrest in San Diego, California last Sunday (Sep 4).
Francis, who is widely known as “Fat Leonard”, was due to be sentenced in three weeks, after he pleaded guilty in a corruption case involving the US Navy.
He was found missing from his San Diego residence when police were sent to check on him after discovering that there was a problem with his electronic ankle bracelet.
WHAT THE CORRUPTION SCANDAL WAS ABOUT
The Malaysian national ran a military contracting company out of Singapore. He was accused of giving bribes to Navy officers to influence them to steer official work toward his shipyards, which American prosecutors said had been overcharging the Navy.
US media reported that Francis was arrested in 2013 following a federal sting operation in a San Diego hotel, after he was suspected of running a vast corruption scheme which involved some naval officers treated to food, drink and paid sex.
He was said to have used his influence with senior commanders to secure lucrative military contracts often involving the Indo-Pacific based 7th Fleet – the largest of the Navy’s forward deployed fleets.
He pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering about US$500,000 in bribes to Navy officers.
In return, the officers made sure that US naval vessels, including aircraft carriers, were diverted towards Francis’ Singapore-based company, Glenn Defense Marine Asia, for servicing.
In the process, the Navy was overcharged by an estimated US$35 million. This was later dubbed the “Fat Leonard” scandal by the US media.
According to The Washington Post, the scandal was perhaps the worst national-security breach of its kind to hit the US Navy since the end of the Cold War.