SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — Roughly 24 hours after a Ninth Circuit panel denied former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo Manrique's request for a stay of his pending extradition on corruption charges, the same panel reversed course and gave him a chance to seek an en banc rehearing.
Toledo, president of Peru from 2001 to 2006, stands accused of helping Brazilian construction company Odebrecht win a lucrative contract for a major highway project in exchange for $35 million in bribes.
On Wednesday — after the Ninth Circuit denied Toledo's request for a stay — U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Hixson issued an order to take the former president into custody, opening the way for his extradition to Peru. But on Thursday, the same panel issued a two-week stay so Toledo could "move for reconsideration by the panel or the en banc court.”
U.S. Circuit Judge Michelle Friedland, a Barack Obama appointee, U.S. Circuit Judge Ryan Nelson, a Donald Trump appointee, and U.S. District Judge Kathleen Cardone, a George W. Bush appointee sitting by designation from the Western District of Texas, joined Friedland's original opinion and agreed to Thursday's stay.
Toledo told the panel he intended to file a motion for reconsideration and en banc rehearing but, given Hixson’s order “it was likely that his motion would become moot before it could be filed and considered.”
Following the panel's stay, Hixson vacated his order of commitment on Friday — giving the former leader a little breathing room.
Toledo’s attorneys did not immediately respond to a request for comment. The Department of Justice declined to comment on pending litigation.
In September 2021, Hixson greenlit Toledo’s extradition after more than two years, saying the former Peruvian president must return to his home country to face trial. If convicted, Toledo faces up to 30 years in prison on charges of bribery and money laundering.
Hixson found inconsistencies in two key witnesses’ stories about Toledo don’t outweigh evidence that bribe money flowed to accounts controlled by Toledo’s formerly close friend and mother-in-law.
Josef Maiman, an Israeli businessman and former close friend of Toledo, testified the former president directed him to launder $35 million in bribe money. Another witness, former Odebrecht executive Jorge Barata, said he personally delivered cash to Toledo and that when his company fell behind on payments, Toledo pressured him to keep the money flowing.
Peruvian prosecutors mapped out a complicated web of financial transactions in which more than $31 million was transferred from Odebrecht to accounts controlled by Maiman. More than $17 million was later sent to a company allegedly controlled by Toledo’s mother-in-law, Eva Fernenbug, who was named CEO of the company Ecoteva. Prosecutors say Fernenbug used those funds to buy two properties — a $3.45 million house and $842,000 office — as investments on Toledo’s behalf.
Hixson noted the case against Toledo is far from “airtight," and concluded that a trial, rather than an extradition hearing, is the proper venue to weigh that evidence and the credibility of the witnesses.
Toledo, who turned 77 in March, taught at Stanford University following the completion of his term as president in 2006. He made two subsequent runs for office in 2011 and 2016, placing eighth in the second race.
He has been detained in the San Francisco Bay Area — first in a jail cell, then on house arrest due to the Covid-19 pandemic — since his July 2019 arrest by U.S. marshals at the request of the Peruvian government.
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