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Ninth Circuit denies former Peru president’s petition to halt extradition

Alejandro Toledo Manrique is accused of accepting millions of dollars in bribes while he was president of Peru.

SAN FRANCISCO (CN) — The former president of Peru is one step closer to returning to that country after a judge ordered his return to jail to await his surrender to a U.S. marshal Friday morning.

Alejandro Toledo Manrique, president of Peru from 2001 to 2006, is accused of helping Brazilian engineering and contracting company Odebrecht win a lucrative contract for a major highway project in exchange for millions of dollars in bribes in a corruption scandal that has brought down dozens of power players in Latin America. He was arrested in the U.S. in July 2019 at the request of the Peruvian government. A U.S. magistrate judge certified his extradition in 2021, and the State Department earlier this year announced its intention to grant Peru's extradition request.

A Ninth Circuit panel on Tuesday denied his request to rehear his case against an extradition order. At a status conference held Wednesday, U.S. Magistrate Judge Thomas Hixson revoked Toledo's bail, remanding the former leader to the custody of the U.S. marshal. The former president, through his counsel, told Hixson he did not intend to seek any further stays through either the Ninth Circuit or the Supreme Court.

Toledo is expected to surrender at 9 a.m. Friday at the Robert F. Peckham Federal Building and U.S. Courthouse in San Jose, about one hour south of San Francisco.

On April 5, the Ninth Circuit denied Toledo's request for a stay, but the next day, the same panel issued a two-week stay so Toledo could ask both the panel to reconsider and seek a decision en banc.

That stay ends at midnight Thursday. Given the Ninth Circuit's order Tuesday denying Toledo's motion for reconsideration, the embattled former leader will, in all likelihood, be extradited to Peru.

The panel recognized in the April 5 order that "irreparable injury" to Toledo was obvious, given that, once extradited his appeal would be moot and he could contract a fatal illness or experience other serious health declines while being detained in a Peruvian prison pending formal charges for up to three years. However, it added that Toledo had not shown a likelihood of success on the merits of his case.

U.S. Circuit Judges 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, each agreed Tuesday to deny the petition for a rehearing.

"The full court has been advised of the petition for rehearing en bank, and no judge has requested a vote on whether to rehear the matter en banc," the panel's order states.

The judges noted a change in their April 5 order, amending a sentence that initially read "Toledo, moreover, admitted that $21 million in bribe money was transferred into accounts under the control of his former chief-of-security, with $17.5 million ending up in his mother-in-law’s company, while half a million dollars were deposited into an account in Toledo’s name or used to purchase real estate titled to him," to "Toledo, moreover, admitted that $17.5 million in bribe money 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 U.S.-Peru Extradition treaty provides for extradition when someone is charged with, found guilty of or is sentenced for an extraditable offense. But the panel notes in the amended order that it had to interpret the meaning of "charged with" in the treaty, because there hasn't been a formal charge issued against Toledo in Peru yet due to the procedures of the Peruvian legal system. His case is still in the examination phase, the "Acusación Fiscal," during which a judge holds a preliminary hearing and the accused can object and present exculpatory evidence. That judge then decides whether to issue a formal charge or not.

"'Charged with' is not obviously limited to formal charges," the amended order states. "Indeed, the ordinary meaning of the verb 'charge' is to generally accuse someone of a crime."

Toledo’s defense team did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Categories / Appeals, Courts, Criminal, International

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