SAN DIEGO: Fugitive Malaysian defence contractor “Fat Leonard”, the mastermind behind one of the largest bribery scandals in US military history has been re-arrested in Venezuela three weeks after escaping from house arrest.

Leonard Glenn Francis (pic) had cut off his GPS ankle bracelet before fleeing from house arrest in San Diego, while waiting for sentencing over a bribery scheme that lasted more than a decade and involved dozens of US Navy officers.

His re-arrest came on the eve of the date of scheduled sentencing in California yesterday.

The international manhunt for Francis ended with his arrest by Venezuelan authorities on Tuesday morning at the Caracas airport, as he was about to board an airplane for another country, the US Marshals Service said.

Interpol Venezuela director-general Carlos Garate Rondon said Francis had come to Venezuela via Mexico and was headed for Russia.

There was no immediate word on when he might be extradited to the United States.

Francis was under house arrest in San Diego when he removed his monitoring anklet and escaped on Sept 4.

Ten US agencies searched for him and authorities offered a US$40,000 (RM182,000) reward for his arrest.

US authorities also issued a red notice, which asks law enforcement worldwide to provisionally arrest someone with the possibility of extradition.

Malaysia and Singapore both have extradition agreements with the United States.

Francis pleaded guilty in 2015 to offering prostitution services, luxury hotels, cigars, gourmet meals and more than $500,000 in bribes to Navy officials and others to help his Singapore-based ship servicing company, Glenn Defence Marine Asia Ltd (GDMA).

Prosecutors said the company overcharged the Navy by at least US$35mil for servicing ships, many of which were routed to ports he controlled in the Pacific.

Francis had been allowed to remain under house arrest to receive medical care while he cooperated with the prosecution.

With his help, prosecutors secured convictions of 33 of 34 defendants, including more than two dozen Navy officers. — AP