The government of Peru said that the United States has denied a request to hold former President Alejandro Toledo, who is being sought on corruption charges.
Toledo apparently had a ticket to fly from San Francisco to Tel Aviv, but Israel says it will not allow him into the country until his affairs are settled in Peru. U.S. authorities did not try to stop Toledo from boarding the plane, which raises questions about why the United States refused the request from the government of Peru.
Peru has been informed by U.S. authorities that they are not planning to keep former Peru President Alejandro Toledo, who is wanted in connection with a corruption probe, from boarding a flight to Israel from California in the coming hours, a source in Peru’s Interior Ministry said on Saturday.
The U.S. Justice and State Departments did not immediately respond to requests for comment.
The source, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment, said it was unclear why the United States did not want to detain Toledo. The government of Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was pressuring for the United States to change its mind, the source said.
The dispute threatens to strain relations between the United States and one of its traditional allies in South America.
Toledo is booked on an 8 p.m. (0400 GMT) flight from San Francisco to Tel Aviv, the source said.
Peru has an extradition treaty with the United States but does not have one with Israel.
A judge in Peru issued an international arrest warrant for Toledo Thursday, and the government offered a 100,000 soles ($30,000) reward for any information leading to his capture after he failed to turn himself in to authorities.
Peru has said Interpol issued a red alert to 190 member countries to help find him, but Toledo does not appear on its list of wanted persons. Interpol has not responded to requests for comment on Toledo.
Prosecutors in Peru allege Toledo took $20 million in bribes from Brazilian construction conglomerate Odebrecht [ODBES.UL] and a judge ruled that he must be jailed for up to 18 months while charges against him are prepared.
Toledo, who has earned economics degrees from Stanford University, has denied wrongdoing and has not been charged or convicted of any crimes.
The Israeli government said in a statement, “Former Peru President Toledo will be allowed into Israel only when his matters are settled in Peru.”
What makes this case unusual is that the U.S. denied what amounts to a routine request from Peru. This is especially true with no explanation forthcoming from the Departments of State or Justice.
While it’s true there was no warrant or request for extradition, the U.S. would have normally held Toledo as a courtesy to the Peruvian government.
Toledo has denied taking bribes and sounds every bit the aggrieved politician:
Mr Toledo strongly rejected the allegations saying: “Let Mr Barata say when, how, where and in which bank left those $20m for me. I won’t stand for this!”
Investigators searched Mr Toledo’s home for five hours on Saturday. The attorney general’s office said documents found at the home would now be evaluated.
Mr Toledo was in France at the time of the search and said he was “outraged by this political lynching coming from my traditional enemies”.
There may be something happening beneath the surface between the U.S. and Toledo. The corruption case in question is international in scope. If it has an American component and Toledo could be helpful to the prosecution, who knows?
Meanwhile, the Peruvian government is left without a suspect. That’s alright, though, as they have plenty of others. At least two more former presidents may be implicated in this massive bribery case.