LIMA – Peru’s government sent on Wednesday a protest note to Suriname’s permanent delegation to the United Nations over its decision to invite a wanted former president of the Andean nation to speak at a development conference in New York.
Peru recalled that Alejandro Toledo, who governed from 2001 to 2006 and now lives in the United States, faces two international arrest warrants: one for accepting bribes from Brazilian engineering giant Odebrecht and another for money laundering.
Justice Minister Maria Soledad Perez Tello noted that Peru has filed two extradition requests with authorities in the US and blasted Toledo for not returning to his homeland voluntarily to face the charges.
“I think he should be here. There shouldn’t be anything to fear if he thinks he hasn’t done anything, while if he has committed a crime, then assume (the consequences),” she said.
“But I think it’s a lack of respect to the country for an ex-president to be on a most-wanted list and to be using his Facebook account to defend himself.”
In February, a Peruvian judge issued a national and international order for Toledo’s arrest.
The warrant specified that he would be held in preventive detention for 18 months on charges including receiving a $20 million bribe from Odebrecht in exchange for granting the company a lucrative contract to build a highway connecting Peru and Brazil.
The investigation stemmed from a massive settlement that Odebrecht and petrochemical unit Braskem reached in December with authorities in the United States, Brazil and Switzerland.
Those 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 government officials around the world.
Those countries included Peru, where Odebrecht acknowledged paying $29 million in bribes, according to court documents.
Toledo spoke Wednesday at a conference that was held at a hotel near the UN headquarters and sponsored by, among others, the World Development Foundation and the Suriname Permanent Mission to the United Nations.
He became testy when reporters asked him questions about his legal woes.
“I’m not in the United Nations to talk about that situation. I’m talking here about the sustainability of global development. Can you understand that?” Toledo told members of the media.