PETALING JAYA: Malaysian fugitive defence contractor "Fat Leonard" is believed to be in Venezuela after fleeing the United States, says journalists Tom Wright and Bradley Hope.
The two have said through their global journalism and production studio Project Brazen that Leonard Glenn Francis - who is facing imprisonment in the US for offering bribes to US naval officers in exchange for lucrative supply contracts - is in Venezuela with his son.
In their weekly newsletter Whale Hunting, the duo said that they have 'information' on Francis being in the country after he cut off his GPS monitoring ankle bracelet and fled home arrest in San Diego, California earlier this month.
He currently has a US$40,000 (RM180,000) bounty on his head by the US Marshals Service and is said to have been sighted in the South American country.
"Two weeks on, Whale Hunting has information that Leonard, accompanied by his adult son Leonardo, have made it to Venezuela," they added.
While declining to detail the source of their knowledge, they assured that the information "is solid as of this weekend".
Francis is also believed to be heading to Brazil, based on speculation by a former US official who had investigated the scandal.
He is said to have begun his career of corrupting the US military when he was invited to an Independence Day celebration held by the US Embassy in Malaysia where he met with naval officers and attaches.
On Sept 6, it was reported that the Penang-born Francis was on the run, just three weeks before he was supposed to begin his potentially up to 25-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to being involved in what is said to be the US Navy’s worst corruption scandal.
On Sept 16, it was reported that one of the five US Navy officers embroiled in the scandal, former Rear Admiral Bruce Loveless, is now off the hook after San Diego federal prosecutors dismissed his charges.
Four other officers, former commander Mario Herrera and former captains David Newland, James Dolan and David Lausman were convicted of conspiracy, bribery and other charges.
Besides accusations of being feted with expensive meals, luxury hotel rooms and entertainment by prostitutes that were paid for by Francis, prosecutors also claimed that the defendants had accepted bribes to provide Francis with classified information.
They were also accused of abusing their navy positions to ensure ships berthing at ports were serviced by Francis’ Singapore-based company, Glenn Defence Marine Asia.
The company allegedly overcharged the US Navy by more than US$35mil (RM147mil).
The United States Marshal Service (USMS) has since offered a US$40,000 reward for information leading to Francis’ arrest while 10 US federal state and local agencies have been ordered to hunt for him.