Fat Leonard:1Maduro Ten US citizens elusive contractor Now


Fat Leonard

Fat Leonard:1Maduro Ten US citizens elusive contractor Now

Fat Leonard
Fat Leonard


US and Venezuela trade prisoners: Maduro backs ten US citizens along with elusive contractor “Fat Leonard”

The Biden administration said on Wednesday that the United States had released a close ally of President Nicolás Maduro of Venezuela in exchange for the release of ten Americans detained in the South American nation and the return of a defense contractor on the run known as “Fat Leonard,” who is at the center of a massive Pentagon bribery scandal.

Fat Leonard:1Maduro ten US citizens elusive contractor Now

National security adviser to the White House Jake Sullivan said that the American detainees returned to American territory late on Wednesday. At San Antonio’s Kelly Airfield Annex, six of them arrived.

After stepping off the plane, Californian Savoi Wright, who had been detained in Venezuela in October, exclaimed, “Free at last, free at last, thank God almighty, free at last ” aircraft.

The agreement is the most audacious step the Biden administration has taken to date to strengthen ties with the significant oil-producing country and pressure the self-declared socialist leader to make concessions.

Fat Leonard:1Maduro ten US citizens elusive contractor Now

Following Maduro’s pledge to work toward free and fair conditions for the 2024 presidential election, the White House decided to lift some sanctions, leading to the largest release of American prisoners in Venezuelan history.

Over what he described as an American-led campaign of lies, threats, and torture against someone he believes to be a Venezuelan diplomat unlawfully detained on a U.S. warrant, Maduro hailed Alex Saab’s return as a “triumph for truth.”

With Saab by his side, a defiant Maduro declared, “President Biden, we won’t be anyone’s colony,” receiving a hero’s welcome at the presidential residence.

Fat Leonard:1Maduro ten US citizens elusive contractor Now

Fat Leonard
Fat Leonard


The Saab’s release, which Washington has long considered to be a favor to Maduro, is a big compromise to the Venezuelan president.

The administration of the former president Donald Trump treated Saab like a prize, investing millions of dollars in its pursuit of the businessman who was born in Colombia.

At one point, after Saab was arrested in Cape Verde, the Navy sent a warship to the coast of West Africa to prevent a potential escape.

According to U.S. officials, Biden’s decision to grant him clemency was challenging but necessary to free American inmates. This is a fundamental administrative goal that has led to the release of criminals who were previously thought to be untradeable in recent years.

Fat Leonard:1Maduro ten US citizens elusive contractor Now

“These people have suffered daily in their families, and they have lost far too much valuable time with their loved ones ” their non-attendance. In a statement, President Joe Biden expressed his gratitude that their ordeal is finally over.

Leonard Glenn Francis, the Malaysian proprietor of a ship-servicing company and the main figure in one of the biggest bribery scandals in Pentagon history, was also returned to U.S. custody as a result of the agreement.

However, the exchange infuriated many in the Venezuelan opposition, who have accused the White House of doing nothing but watching as Maduro outwitted Washington after the Trump administration’s attempt to remove him from office failed.

Among the Americans detained was Los Angeles County public defender Eyvin Hernandez, who was detained nearly two years ago near the Colombia-Venezuela border.

Upon reaching Texas on Wednesday evening, he expressed gratitude to Biden “because I know he made a tough choice that will put him under a lot of strain on Capitol Hill.

But he made it home, where we are now with our loved ones. And for that, we are all so very thankful.
Fat Leonard
Fat Leonard


“To be honest, when you’re in prison, all you can think about is how you didn’t appreciate being free while you were free,” Hernandez continued.

“I didn’t know if I would ever make it out,” Wright said to reporters. And being confined to a cell in a place where you’re used to having freedoms is incredibly unsettling. It’s an extremely difficult circumstance.

In October, the United States lifted sanctions against Venezuela’s oil sector after Maduro pledged to level the playing field for the 2024 election, when he wants to add six more years to his crisis-plagued ten-year rule.

As of Nov. 30, Maduro has not been able to lift a ban that prevents María Corina Machado, his main rival, from seeking public office.

Earlier in the day, Biden informed reporters that Maduro seemed to be “keeping his commitment on a free election.”

Republicans said that Saab’s release would only give Maduro more confidence to pursue an authoritarian course, mirroring the views of many in the opposition supported by the United States.

Fat Leonard:1Maduro ten US citizens elusive contractor Now

Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, a Republican and vice chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, called the decision “disgraceful” on the social media site X, which was formerly known as Twitter.

The White House made great efforts to guarantee that, should Venezuela’s government fail to uphold election laws, it will not think twice about redisposing sanctions agreements struck during discussions with the opposition.

According to the statement, Maduro is still wanted for drug trafficking in New York, and there is a $15 million reward in place for his capture.

The agreement also mandates the release of 21 other Venezuelans by Maduro’s government, one of whom is a close ally of Machado and has not yet commented on the release.

Two former Green Berets who participated in the 2019 effort to remove Maduro from office, Luke Denman and Airan Berry, are among the Americans who were freed.

Over the past few years, the United States and Venezuela have carried out a number of swaps.
Fat Leonard
Fat Leonard


In October 2022, for example, the release of two of Maduro’s wife’s nephews who were detained in the United States on drug-related charges was exchanged for the release of seven Americans, including five oil executives at Citgo, based in Houston.

As an example Wednesday’s swap, like the previous one, happened on an airport in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, an island nation in the Caribbean.

At the Simon Bolivar International Airport, Saab, who turns 52 on Thursday, hugged his wife and two small children as he descended a private jet’s staircase.

It was a dramatic contrast to the scene on another tarmac, in Cape Verde, where he was detained in 2020 while stopping for gas on his way to Iran to broker oil deals on Maduro’s government’s behalf.

The United States filed charges alleging a conspiracy to commit money laundering in connection with a bribery scheme that diverted $350 million intended for the construction of affordable housing through state contracts.

Fat Leonard:1Maduro ten US citizens elusive contractor Now

Additionally, Saab was penalized for allegedly managing a scheme that pilfered hundreds of millions of dollars in food import contracts during a period when the South American nation was experiencing widespread hunger primarily as a result of shortages.

Following Saab’s apprehension, Maduro’s administration asserted that Saab was a humanitarian special envoy and qualified for diplomatic immunity from criminal prosecution under international law.

Standing next to Maduro at the neoclassical presidential palace in Caracas, Saab declared, “Life is a miracle.” Serving the Venezuelan people and this government, which is devoted and never gives up like me, makes me proud. We’ll win every time.

There was no reference to Saab’s covert meetings with the US Drug Enforcement Administration in Maduro’s chest-thumping.

Saab’s attorneys stated during a secret court session last year that Saab had spent years assisting that organization in sorting out corruption in the inner ring of Maduro and had consented to give up millions of dollars in unlawful earnings from shady state contracts.

Fat Leonard:1Maduro ten US citizens elusive contractor Now

However, it’s unclear how valuable the information he gave the Americans was; some have speculated that it was all a Maduro-approved ruse to gather intelligence on American law enforcement’s activities in Venezuela.

In any event, federal prosecutors in Miami charged Saab shortly after he skipped out on a scheduled surrender date in May 2019.

The agreement is the Biden administration’s most recent concession in the effort to free Americans detained abroad.

Prior to this, there was a well-known prisoner exchange in December of last year, when the United States government traded Russian arms dealer for American prisoners, despite opposition from some Republicans in Congress and criticism from some law enforcement officials.

Brittney Griner, a WNBA player, for Viktor Bout.

The swaps have sparked worries that the United States is encouraging hostage-taking abroad and creating a false comparison between foreigners who have been lawfully tried and found guilty in American courts and Americans who are wrongfully detained abroad.

Juan Cruz, who oversaw the White House’s relations with Latin America while employed at the National Security Council from 2017 to 2019, questioned, “What happened to the separation of powers.?”

“Normally, a defendant would not be eligible for a swap until after he was found guilty. Given the possibility of a Trump 2.0 in the near future, this is an especially terrible precedent.

The executive will wink and nod in response.
Fat Leonard
Fat Leonard


However, representatives of the Biden administration claim that safeguarding the liberty of Brittney Griner, a WNBA player, for Viktor Bout.

Dealing with wrongfully detained Americans and hostages abroad is a challenging task.

The White House found this agreement more agreeable when Venezuela agreed to give Francis back.

Francis, who went by the nickname “Fat Leonard” due to his massive 6-foot-3 frame, was taken into custody as part of a federal sting operation in a San Diego hotel almost ten years ago.

Investigators claim that by buying off dozens of senior Navy officers with alcohol, sex, expensive parties, and other gifts, he defrauded the American military of over $35 million.

Fat Leonard:1Maduro ten US citizens elusive contractor Now

Francis pulled off an equally spectacular and audacious escape three weeks prior to his September 2022 sentencing. He simply vanished, taking off his ankle monitor. Venezuelan police detained him while they were trying to take off from Caracas and has been detained ever since.

___ Garcia Cano reported from Caracas, Venezuela, and Tucker from Washington. This report was written by Associated Press writers Julie Watson in San Diego, Michael Balsamo and Jim Mustian in New York, and Matthew Lee in Washington.


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