SAN FRANCISCO – A US federal judge ruled on Friday that former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo must remain bars pending his possible extradition to Peru to face corruption charges.
Magistrate Judge Thomas S. Hixson accepted prosecutors’ argument that Toledo, 73, represents a flight risk, given that he was in possession of $40,000 in cash at the time of his arrest.
The prosecution also pointed out that Toledo’s French-born wife, Eliane Karp, is a citizen of Israel, a country that doesn’t have an extradition treaty with Peru.
Hixson scheduled the first hearing on the extradition request for July 26.
Karp, 65, pushed past reporters and television crews to enter the federal courthouse in San Francisco for Toledo’s bail hearing.
Looking in the direction of some Peruvian journalists, she muttered in Spanish: “there are those worms,” according to Peru’s RPP network.
Peru submitted the extradition request to Washington in May 2018, after a judge in Lima found evidence that Toledo took a $20 million bribe from Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht in exchange for awarding the company a lucrative highway contract during his 2001-2006 presidency.
The Andean nation’s foreign minister hailed the judge’s decision to deny bail for Toledo.
“We think it is quite positive,” Nestor Popolizio told EFE at United Nations headquarters in New York.
“What we hope is that sooner rather than later, former President Alejandro Toledo is extradited to Peru, answering to Peruvian justice,” he said.
The Peruvian AG Office said in February that Israeli businessman Josef Maiman had admitted to helping Toledo launder bribe money from Odebrecht.
On Monday, the press reported that Maiman told prosecutors he received nearly $35 million from Odebrecht to pass along to Toledo, who has always denied any links to corruption and dismissed the accusations as politically motivated.
Maiman has changed his testimony following negotiations with prosecutors, one of Toledo’s attorneys in Lima said Tuesday after learning of his client’s arrest.
“The entire dossier created to request extradition is made of documents that show there has been political persecution,” Heriberto Benitez told Canal N television.
And the lawyer who represented Toledo at Friday’s hearing in San Francisco, Joseph Russoniello, said that his client, who is of mixed indigenous and European descent, could not get a fair trial in Peru due to discrimination and political animus.
The charges against Toledo arise from an investigation spurred by a massive settlement that Odebrecht and its petrochemical unit, Braskem, reached in December 2016 with authorities in the US, Brazil and Switzerland.
The companies pleaded guilty and agreed to pay at least $3.5 billion to resolve charges arising out of bid-rigging schemes that began as early as 2001 and involved the payment of hundreds of millions of dollars in bribes to officials in more than a dozen countries.
Toledo is just one of the Peruvian political heavyweights who have been caught up in the Odebrecht scandal, including presidential successors Alan Garcia, Ollanta Humala and Pedro Pablo Kuczynski.
Garcia shot himself when police came to his home on April 16 to take him into custody on Odebrecht-related charges. The former president later died on the operating table at a Lima hospital.
In May, Humala and his wife, Nadine Heredia, were charged with money laundering in connection with the receipt of illegal campaign contributions from Odebrecht.
Kuczynski, who served in Toledo’s administration, resigned the presidency in March 2018 over allegations he lied to Congress about more than $782,000 that a financial-consulting business he owned, Miami-based Westfield Capital Ltd., received between 2004 and 2007 from Odebrecht.