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Peru ex-leader Toledo loses bid to stop extradition from U.S.

FILE - This booking photo released on March 18, 2019, by the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office shows former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo Manrique.
San Mateo County Sheriff's Offic
FILE - This booking photo released on March 18, 2019, by the San Mateo County Sheriff's Office shows former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo Manrique.

A U.S. appeals court panel denied an appeal by former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo Manrique to stop his extradition to face charges he accepted millions of dollars in bribes as part of a mammoth corruption scandal in which four of Peru's ex-presidents have been implicated.

Toledo, 77, is accused of taking $20 million in bribes from Odebrecht, a giant Brazilian construction company that has admitted to U.S. authorities that it bribed officials to win contracts throughout Latin America for decades. He had sought a stay on his extradition pending a legal challenge to the U.S. State Department’s decision to send him back to Peru.

Toledo, who was Peru’s president in 2001-2006, was arrested in July 2019 at his home in Menlo Park, California. He was initially held in solitary confinement at the Santa Rita Jail about 40 miles (60 kilometers) east of San Francisco, but was released in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He has been under house arrest since then.

The judge in the extradition case, Thomas Hixson, revoked Toledo’s bail Wednesday and ordered him to surrender to U.S. marshals in San Francisco by 9 a.m. Friday to be returned to jail, at the request of U.S. Attorney Ismail Ramsey. Ramsey said that the U.S. Marshals Service would move to turn him over to Peruvian authorities. But when that might happen was unclear.

The Odebrecht corruption scandal has shaken Peru’s politics, with nearly every living former president now on trial or under investigation.

Former President Ollanta Humala is standing trial on charges that he and his wife received over $3 million from Odebrecht for his presidential campaigns in 2006 and 2011. Both have denied any wrongdoing.

Ex-leader Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, who left office in 2018, is under house arrest for similar charges.

Former leader Alan García, in office in 2006-2011, fatally shot himself in the head in 2019 as police arrived at his home to arrest him.

In his effort to stay the extradition order, Toledo argued that Peru hadn't submitted a charging document or shown probable cause. But the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco said in its ruling that Peruvian prosecutors have filed charging documents that are sufficient to support Toledo’s extradition.

The three-member panel said statements made by two witnesses in the corruption case who testified against Toledo were enough "to establish probable cause in an extradition hearing.”

“Toledo, moreover, admitted that $21 million in bribe money was transferred into accounts under his former chief-of-security’s control, $17.5 million ended up in his mother-in-law’s company, and $500,000 was deposited in a bank account in his name or used to purchase real estate titled to him,” the court wrote.

Toledo also argued that he shouldn't be sent back because it would mean waiting for up to three years in a Peruvian prison to be formally charged, which would put his life at risk because of his age and ill health.

The appeals court panel acknowledged that Toledo risks serious health effects if put in a Peruvian prison where conditions are dire. But the judges said they based their decision on the fact that Toledo was unlikely to succeed in challenging his extradition.

“The panel reaffirmed that the public interest will be served by the United States complying with a valid extradition application because proper compliance promotes relations between the two countries, and enhances efforts to establish an international rule of law and order,” the court said.

Toledo has been a permanent legal resident in California, where he has ties going back to the 1970s, when he was a student at Stanford University. He was a visiting scholar at Stanford as recently as 2017, though the school has said it was an unpaid position. He was working on a book.

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