(LONDON) — The prime suspect in the unsolved 2005 disappearance of American teenager Natalee Holloway could soon be extradited from Peru to face criminal charges in the United States, ABC News has learned.
The Peruvian government issued an executive order on Wednesday accepting a request by U.S. authorities for the temporary extradition of jailed Dutch citizen Joran van der Sloot, who has been serving a 28-year sentence in Peru for the 2010 murder of Stephany Flores, a 21-year-old college student from a prominent Peruvian family. Upon arrival in the U.S., van der Sloot will face a federal trial on extortion and wire fraud charges stemming from an accusation that he tried to profit from his connection to the Holloway case.
“We will continue to collaborate on legal issues with allies such as the United States, and many others with which we have extradition treaties,” Edgar Alfredo Rebaza, director of Peru’s Office of International Judicial Cooperation and Extraditions of the National Prosecutor’s Office, said in a statement on Wednesday.
A source familiar with the matter told ABC News on Wednesday that van der Sloot’s extradition flight could happen as early as this weekend but will likely happen within a week. U.S. Marshals will accompany van der Sloot on the flight, which will depart from Lima. It was not immediately clear where exactly the plane would land in the U.S.
If van der Sloot is found not guilty of the charges, he will be returned to Peru to serve the remainder of his sentence there. If he is convicted, the Peruvian and U.S. governments will have to agree on where he serves his U.S. sentence as well as the rest of his Peruvian sentence.
Holloway, an 18-year-old from Mountain Brook, Alabama, vanished on the night of May 30, 2005, while celebrating her high school graduation with classmates on the Dutch Caribbean Island of Aruba. She was last seen leaving a bar called Carlos’n Charlie’s in Oranjestad and getting in a grey Honda with then-17-year-old van der Sloot and two of his friends.
Van der Sloot was identified as a suspect and detained weeks later but ultimately released without charge due to a lack of evidence. An Alabama judge later declared Holloway dead, though her body was never found. No charges have been filed in the case.
On June 30, 2010, a federal grand jury in Alabama indicted van der Sloot for allegedly trying to extort hundreds of thousands of dollars from Holloway’s family after her disappearance.
Federal prosecutors alleged that on March 29, 2010, van der Sloot contacted Beth Holloway through her lawyer and claimed he would reveal the location of her daughter’s remains in exchange for $250,000 — $25,000 up front. During a recorded sting operation with the FBI, Beth Holloway’s attorney, John Q. Kelly, met with van der Sloot in a hotel room on Aruba, giving him $10,000 in cash as Beth Holloway wired $15,000 to van der Sloot’s bank account, according to prosecutors.
Then van der Sloot led Kelly to a location away from the hotel and changed his story about the night he had been with Natalee Holloway, prosecutors said. He now claimed he had picked her up but that she had demanded to be put down, so he threw her to the ground. He said her head hit a rock and she was killed instantly by the impact, according to prosecutors.
Prosecutors said van der Sloot then took Kelly to a nearby home and claimed that his father, who had since died, buried Natalee Holloway’s body in the building’s foundation. Van der Sloot parted ways with Kelly after the exchange and later emailed him saying the information he had provided was “worthless,” according to prosecutors. Within days, van der Sloot had slipped away to Peru.
Natalee Holloway’s mother released a statement on Wednesday reacting to the news that van der Sloot, now 35, would be temporarily extradited from Peru to the U.S.
“I was blessed to have had Natalee in my life for 18 years, and as of this month, I have been without her for exactly 18 years. She would be 36 years old now,” Beth Holloway said. “It has been a very long and painful journey, but the persistence of many is going to pay off. Together, we are finally getting justice for Natalee.”
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