A Malaysian national at the center of one of the largest US Navy corruption scandals in modern history will be returned to face sentencing after Venezuela agreed to his extradition as part of a prisoner exchange.
"Fat Leonard" Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to running a yearslong bribery scheme, using his port services company to swindle the US Navy out of at least $35M (see overview). Francis provided kickbacks—including cash, travel, sex workers, and more—to Navy officials in exchange for classified information to boost his chance of securing US government contracts. After years of cooperation with prosecutors, Francis escaped house arrest last year and fled to Venezuela just weeks before sentencing.
Ten detained Americans will be released, along with at least 20 Venezuelan political prisoners. In exchange, the US will release a Colombian businessman accused of laundering money for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro.
While under house arrest, Francis worked with a journalist to secretly tell his side of the story. Listen to the resulting nine-part podcast here.