LIMA, Feb 12 (Reuters) - Peru’s Interior Minister Carlos Basombrio said it was unclear where the country’s fugitive former president Alejandro Toledo was on Sunday after the government’s bid to capture him hit a legal obstacle in the United States.
The United States told Peru that there did not appear to be sufficient probable cause to merit detaining Toledo and asked the Andean country to refile its request, Basombrio said by phone.
Toledo, once an anti-graft crusader who governed Peru from 2001-2006, is wanted in connection with a far-reaching corruption inquiry, but he has repeatedly denied wrongdoing and has yet to be charged with, or convicted of, any crimes.
Prosecutors allege Toledo took $20 million in bribes from Brazilian builder Odebrecht, citing testimony from a former Odebrecht executive and bank transfers of some $10 million from the family-owned company to accounts controlled by a longtime friend of Toledo.
“It’s hard for us to understand what additional indications are needed ... we find what’s been uncovered thus far unsettling,” Basombrio said, adding that the United States had signaled its “greatest willingness” to help find Toledo.
The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment.
The disagreement threatens to strain tensions between the United States and Peru, a traditional U.S. ally in South America and one of the world’s biggest producers of cocaine.
A Peruvian judge issued an international arrest warrant for Toledo on Thursday and said he must spend 18 months in jail while charges of influence peddling and money laundering are prepared against him.
Toledo’s attorney has slammed the “preventive prison” order as excessive and a hallmark of autocratic regimes. He did not immediately respond to requests for comment on Sunday.
Peru frequently jails suspected criminals for extended periods to keep them from fleeing or obstructing ongoing investigations. The practice has been criticized by some as violating the right to due process.
Toledo was last believed to be at Stanford University in California on Saturday when he had a scheduled flight from San Francisco for Israel, which does not have an extradition treaty with Peru, Basombrio said.
It was unclear if Toledo, whose wife has Israeli citizenship, boarded the flight, Basombrio said.
Israel said on Sunday it will not allow Toledo to enter the country before his matters are settled in Peru.
Reporting By Mitra Taj; Editing by Alan Crosby