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Peru asks world to help find fugitive ex-President Toledo

Officials say former President Alejandro Toledo, wanted in a regionwide graft scandal, may be in the US or Israel. The onetime anti-corruption crusader could face a lengthy jail sentence if extradited.

Peruvian authorities have asked for international help in finding former leader Alejandro Toledo, with officials saying on Friday that he was likely now in San Francisco and may try to flee to Israel.

"Anyone in the world who can help us find him can claim the reward," Interior Minister Carlos Basombrio said, offering 100,000 soles (28,881 euros, $30,000) for information leading to his capture. "Peru doesn't deserve to see another president flee justice."

The government has requested help from US and Israeli authorities to return Toledo to Peru.

Jail term awaits

A judge on Thursday ruled that Toledo, who denies any wrongdoing, must be jailed for up to 18 months while influence-peddling and money-laundering charges are prepared against him.

Brasilien Sao Paulo Sitz der Firma Odebrecht (Reuters/P. Whitaker)

Odebrecht is at the focus of graft investigations

Prosecutors allege that Toledo took $20 million (18.8 million euros) in bribes from Brazil's Odebrecht SA, a family-owned construction conglomerate at the center of Latin America's biggest regionwide graft scandal.

Local media said Odebrecht had been bidding for a contract to build a highway from Brazil to Peru's Pacific coastline.

The company admitted last year in a plea agreement with the US Justice Department to paying some $800 million in bribes to politicians throughout Latin America, including $29 million during the 2001-2006 governments of Toledo and his two successors.

Although several countries have launched investigations, no head of state has yet been arrested.

Interpol alerted

Interpol has issued a red-alert notice to 190 member countries to find the onetime pro-democracy hero and anti-corruption crusader.

Toledo, who governed Peru from 2001 to 2006, is now a visiting scholar at Stanford University in California. His last known whereabouts were in France a week ago.

His wife has citizenship of Israel, and his longtime friend, Peruvian-Israeli businessman Yosef Maiman, is believed to live there.

His predecessor, Alberto Fujimori, who fled to Japan after a similar scandal, is now serving a 25-year sentence for corruption and human rights abuses during his decadelong rule.

Watch video 01:11

The bribing Brazilians

mm/tj (AP, Reuters)

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