Joran van der Sloot to be extradited to US to face extortion charges over Natalee Holloway case

The Dutchman, who was sentenced to 28 years for the murder of Peruvian Stephany Flores in 2010, is also the key suspect in the 2005 disappearance of the 18-year-old American

Joran van der Sloot, in a file photo.
Joran van der Sloot, in a file photo.Leslie Mazoch (AP)

“I would never kill a girl,” Joran van der Sloot told the press in 2008, when he was still at large but already the prime suspect in the disappearance of Natalee Holloway, a young American girl who had graduated from high school and traveled to the Caribbean island of Aruba in May 2005 to celebrate. She was last seen in the company of Van der Sloot, a Dutch national then aged 17, and Surinamese brothers Satish and Deepak Kalpoe. For Holloway’s family a tortuous search unfolded, especially as those involved have changed their stories several times.

Van der Sloot, who was arrested twice during the investigation and spent three months in custody, initially said he had left Natalee Holloway at her hotel and never heard from her again, and then that they went to the beach and said goodbye. However, a 2008 Dutch television documentary aired a confession Van der Sloot made to a reporter who had gained his trust and hidden cameras inside a car. Van der Sloot claimed that Holloway suffered a seizure and, as she was unresponsive, he knew she was dead and called a friend to get rid of the body, stating they dumped her in the sea. “It all ended better than I could ever have hoped, because they never found her. If they had found her, I would have been in deep shit,” he said without emotion on the recording.

With his confession on tape, Van der Sloot said his testimony was a lie and that he had invented the story to impress his companion. Incredible as it may seem, the authorities did not consider the documentary to provide sufficient evidence for an arrest. Two years later, in February 2010, the Dutchman contacted Beth Holloway, the victim’s mother, and asked her for $25,000 in exchange for information about where Natalee’s remains could be found. According to the FBI, $15,000 was wired to his bank account and the rest was paid in cash. But Van der Sloot did not honor the agreement and disappeared.

Shortly afterward, at the end of May 2010, he showed up at a poker tournament in Peru where he met Stephany Flores, a 21-year-old Peruvian. He seduced her, invited her to his hotel room, and killed her, beating her and strangling her. He fled but was arrested a few days later in Chile and taken back to Peru, where he pled guilty and was sentenced to 28 years in prison and ordered to pay civil reparations of $75,000. He was initially held in the Piedras Gordas prison and in 2014 was transferred to Challapalca, a maximum-security prison at almost 5,000 meters above sea level in the highlands of the Tacna region.

Van der Sloot, who married and had a daughter in prison, will have served out his sentence in June 2038. Everything indicated that he would remain in Peru. However, the Permanent Criminal Chamber of the Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to a request from the United States: a temporary surrender order so that he can be tried for the alleged crimes of extortion and swindling over the $25,000 he took from the Holloway family. Natalee’s mother issued a statement after the extradition request. “I was blessed to have Natalee in my life for 18 years. She would be 36 years old now. 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.” Regarding Van der Sloot’s extradition, the Peruvian judiciary has made it clear that the United States “must keep the defendant in custody throughout the proceedings in its territory.” When the U.S. trial has been concluded, Van der Sloot will be returned to prison in Peru.

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