U.S. Judge Thomas Hixson ruled that Toledo, arrested earlier this week in California and who appeared in a packed courtroom wearing a red prison jumpsuit, should be kept in custody during extradition proceedings back to Peru, which could take up to a year.
Toledo, who served as president from 2001 to 2006, is a fugitive from Peruvian justice for allegedly receiving US$20 million from the Brazilian construction company Odebrecht in exchange for receiving public works contracts.
He was arrested July 16 following a formal request by Peru for his extradition a year ago. Toledo continues to deny any wrongdoing in the case.
Hixson said he made his decision based on the fact that when the U.S. FBI arrested the former head of state he was carrying a suitcase that held between US$40,000 and US$45,000 in cash. The judge feared Toledo would flee the country, leading to possible diplomatic tensions between the U.S. and Peru.
His lawyer during the hearing, Joseph Russoniello, said Toledo was an "extraordinary person" and argued the Peruvian arrest warrant was insufficient to extradite him. Toledo says he wants to seek justice in the United States because of discrimination against him in Peru. Russoniello told reporters his client is “requesting a public defender,” in the case slated to happen July 26, according to the lawyer.
Peru has faced a wave of political scandals linked to corruption, particularly the Odebrecht case. Former President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski was arrested at his home over allegations of bribery linked to the investigation.
Another former president, Alan Garcia, shot himself in the head to avoid arrest in April, in connection with alleged bribes from the Brazilian builder. Keiko Fujimori, former legislator and daughter to ex-authoritarian president of Peru, Alberto Fujimori, was detained several months ago and is under investigation for receiving over US$1.2 million in Odebrecht monies for her 2011 presidential campaign.