Fugitive who bribed navy officials could be leverage for Venezuela to gain US recognition

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  • ‘Fat Leonard’ fled to Venezuela after pleading guilty to involvement in a US Navy corruption scandal.
  • The United States has 30 days to seek the extradition of the former military contractor.
  • Venezuelan President Maduro could use Leonard as a bargaining chip for US recognition, AP reported.

The capture of a fugitive former military contractor who escaped to Venezuela could be key to Nicolas Maduro’s efforts to gain official recognition from the Biden administration.

‘Fat Leonard’ Glenn Francis was arrested in Venezuela on Tuesday after escaping from US custody after severing his ankle after pleading guilty to involvement in a US Navy bribery scandal.

With his capture, experts are wondering if disputed Venezuelan President Maduro will use the prisoner as a bargaining chip to win recognition from US President Joe Biden’s administration, AP reported.

Francis, a 350-pound man nicknamed “Fat Leonard”, was arrested by Venezuelan police as he attempted to board a flight at Simon Bolivar International Airport, AP reported. US authorities now have 30 days to formally request his extradition.

Francis was three weeks away from sentencing for his role in bribing naval officials when he escaped.

Prosecutors argued that Francis attempted to bribe Navy officials with hundreds of thousands of dollars – as well as Cuban cigars, Spanish suckling pigs, tickets to Lady Gaga concerts and “a spinning carousel of prostitutes” – in exchange for classified information and job opportunities for his company, The Guardian reported.

He also overcharged the Navy more than $35 million for services, NBC reported,

With his arrest, experts said AP Francis’ conditional return could be used as leverage to prompt official recognition of the Biden administration.

“I have no doubt that Venezuelans will benefit from (Francis’ arrest), especially because they have felt the effects of the long arm of the American justice system,” said David Smilde, a longtime Venezuela expert. who teaches at Tulane University. PA.

A law enforcement official in Venezuela told AP that extradition was considered unlikely because the Biden administration recognizes opposition leader Juan Guaidó — not Maduro — as the country’s rightful leader.

Guaidó declared himself interim president of Venezuela in January 2019 amid nationwide protests against authoritarian President Nicolas Maduro. The United States and its allies still officially recognize Guaidó as the ruler of Venezuela, despite Maduro’s current control of the government.

Under Maduro’s regime, Venezuelan citizens are fleeing a government that has engaged in “crimes against humanity”, including torture and sexual violence used to suppress dissent, according to a United Nations report released on Tuesday.

The country’s immigrants, like those recently airlifted to Martha’s Vineyard by Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, represent a new wave of migration to the United States, Insider reported earlier this month.

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