SAN FRANCISCO – Former Peruvian president Alejandro Toledo will remain behind bars in California until at least Sept. 12, the US federal judge handling Lima’s request to extradite the ex-head of state on corruption charges ruled Thursday.
During a hearing at a federal court in San Francisco that lasted less than 20 minutes, Magistrate Judge Thomas S. Hixson expressed concern about the conditions under which Toledo is being held.
The federal public defender representing the 73-year-old Toledo said that since his July 16 arrest, the prisoner has only been allowed to leave his cell in the separation unit of Santa Rita jail on two occasions.
Though Toledo is not considered to be a dangerous prisoner, the jail administrators say they must hold him in solitary because of the high-profile nature of the case, defense counsel Graham Archer told the court.
In July, Hixson declined to set bail for Toledo, accepting prosecutors’ argument that the Peruvian represented a flight risk, given that he was in possession of $40,000 in cash at the time of his arrest.
During Thursday’s hearing, however, the judge said he feared that continuing to deny bail to Toledo could mean “solitary confinement for a number of years.”
Accordingly, Hixson postponed a decision on Toledo’s bail application for two weeks and told prosecutors to look into alternatives to holding the prisoner in isolation.
When prosecutors challenged Toledo’s entitlement to representation by a public defender, the judge told them he had reviewed the defendant’s financial statements and concluded that the Peruvian’s claim he could not pay for a lawyer was legitimate. EFE
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 lawyer who represented Toledo at his first bail hearing in July, 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.