Latin America

Wanted Peruvian businessman escapes house arrest in Bolivia

Peru has accused ex-presidential campaign advisor of illegally obtaining public contracts

Martín Belaunde, photographed on May 13.
Martín Belaunde, photographed on May 13.David Mercado / REUTERS

A former campaign advisor to Peruvian President Ollanta Humala has escaped from a relative’s home in neighboring Bolivia where he had been under house arrest since January pending his extradition to face corruption charges in his home country.

Martín Belaunde Lossio had been fighting an extradition request by Lima, saying that he was being “politically persecuted” by Peruvian authorities. He reportedly entered Bolivia illegally.

Belaunde has been accused of illegally obtaining public contracts for companies with which he was personally involved. He was nearly arrested last year but fled Peru before officials closed in.

In January, Bolivia rejected his petition for political asylum and ordered him held under house arrest at the home of relatives in La Paz.

The relatives have been arrested in connection with helping Belaunde escape.

The entire episode has placed Evo Morales in a delicate position

The government of President Evo Morales, which is at the center of a political and legal controversy in Peru, has stated that Belaunde is “a corrupt” businessman who must be turned over immediately.

However, Belaunde delayed the extradition process when he filed a complaint with the Bolivian courts, which recently ruled against him.

After the court decision, the Bolivian government’s chief of staff, Hugo Moldis, deemed Belaunde a flight risk because it was difficult securing him in the property, which is situated in an outlying neighborhood of La Paz.

On Sunday, Bolivian officials said three police officers who were assigned to guard the suspect may also have helped him escape. They too have been arrested and are under investigation.

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Bolivian authorities have begun a nationwide search for Belaunde to try to capture him before he leaves the country.

Three other fugitives have also recently escaped Bolivian justice. They are already thought to have crossing over one of the country’s wide and sparsely populated borders.

The entire episode has placed Morales in a delicate position. He is scheduled to meet with his Peruvian counterpart for bilateral talks in the coming weeks.

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