Fat Leonard snookered by Venezuelans into pondering he would go free | EUROtoday

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Fat Leonard, the celebrated con man and fugitive from U.S. justice, obtained snookered ultimately.

As lately as Monday, Leonard Glenn Francis thought he was on the verge of completely gaining his liberty after 15 months of attempting to outrun U.S. officers, in accordance with Francis’s legal professional and others who’ve been in touch with him. He texted his mom from a Caracas jail to let her know that Venezuelan officers had promised to launch him from custody to obtain medical remedy and that he anticipated to win his full freedom by the top of the yr.

In truth, it was all a ruse hatched by Venezuelan safety officers so Francis wouldn’t legally contest his switch again to U.S. custody as half of a bigger prisoner swap that the 2 international locations negotiated in secret over the previous a number of months.

On Wednesday, as a substitute of strolling free, the 59-year-old Francis was bundled onto a small jet by Venezuelan officers and flown from Caracas to the tiny Caribbean island of Canouan — a part of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, a rustic within the West Indies. There, together with 10 Americans who had been held prisoner in Venezuela, he was handed over to U.S. officers in change for a Venezuelan diplomat who had been dealing with cash laundering costs in Florida, in accordance with information organizations in St. Vincent.

U.S. authorities transported Francis to Miami the place he remained locked up in a federal jail on Thursday, in accordance with a spokesman for the Bureau of Prisons. In the approaching days, the Malaysian protection contractor is anticipated to be transferred to San Diego so he can lastly be sentenced — 9 years after he pleaded responsible to federal bribery and fraud costs — for masterminding essentially the most in depth corruption case in U.S. navy historical past.

Who is ‘Fat Leonard,’ the fugitive Venezuela turned over to the U.S.?

His recapture marks the top of a 15-month odyssey during which he bamboozled federal officers into pondering he was terminally unwell, escaped federal dwelling detention in San Diego and fled to Mexico, Cuba and at last Venezuela, all in hopes of successful refuge in a rustic that wouldn’t extradite him to the United States.

Francis had informed members of the family and different confidants in latest days that he was optimistic he could be launched imminently from Venezuelan custody and given his freedom after a long-running bid to win asylum there.

“Hoping for positive outcome before the year ends,” he wrote in a textual content Monday to Sarah Macdonald, a British journalist and filmmaker who’s producing a documentary about how Francis bribed scores of U.S. Navy officers whereas defrauding the Pentagon of an estimated $50 million. She shared the textual content change with The Washington Post.

When Macdonald requested if he meant he was about to be sprung from jail, he responded: “Let’s see in 12 days 😊.”

Francis despatched comparable messages Monday to his mom in Kuala Lumpur, in accordance with an individual in contact together with his household in Malaysia.

Marco Rodriguez-Acosta, a Venezuelan lawyer who represents Francis, mentioned his consumer all of the sudden modified his thoughts in latest weeks about his authorized technique for successful his freedom. The legal professional mentioned Francis instructed him final month to drop long-planned efforts to file a authorized petition for his launch from Venezuelan custody, apparently as a result of somebody had satisfied him that he was about to be launched by means of casual channels as a substitute.

“I am convinced he was deceived,” Rodriguez-Acosta mentioned.

He mentioned Venezuelan officers didn’t legally notify him or Francis of the fugitive’s pending switch or give him a chance to contest it in court docket. Rodriguez-Acosta known as the result “a hard blow for those who still trust in the independence of powers.”

Francis was the proprietor of Glenn Defense Marine Asia, a Singapore-based protection contractor that resupplied U.S. warships throughout port calls in Asia for practically 1 / 4 century. In January 2015, he pleaded responsible to federal fraud and bribery costs.

But his sentencing was delayed for years as a result of he agreed to cooperate with the Justice Department as a part of his plea cut price and supply incriminating proof in opposition to tons of of U.S. Navy officers whom he lavished with costly meals, prostitutes and different items.

Francis was apprehended by Venezuelan authorities in Caracas in September 2022 on an Interpol Red Notice 16 days after he escaped from home arrest in San Diego by slicing off a GPS ankle monitor and fleeing to Mexico.

But U.S. authorities had been unable to formally request his extradition from Venezuela as a result of Washington doesn’t have diplomatic relations with the federal government of President Nicolás Maduro. As a consequence, Francis remained in authorized limbo — and in detention in a Caracas jail — whereas his asylum case stalled within the Venezuelan courts.

In change for Francis and 10 Americans who had been detained by Maduro’s authorities, President Biden agreed to grant clemency to Alex Saab, a Maduro ally who was awaiting trial in Miami on federal cash laundering costs. Saab, 51, was arrested final yr in Cape Verde whereas touring to Iran and later extradited to the United States.

The prisoner swap happened Wednesday on the Caribbean island of Canouan — impartial floor, given the absence of formal diplomatic relations between Washington and Maduro’s authorities, in accordance with Searchlight, a information website that covers St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

U.S. officers handed over Saab, who then returned to a hero’s welcome in Caracas and met with Maduro on the presidential palace. Some of the freed American prisoners then had been transported from Canouan to a navy base in San Antonio. Francis was taken on a separate flight to Miami.