Suspect in Natalee Holloway’s disappearance faces extradition to US

(ABC NEWS)—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 Natalee 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.

Van der Sloot’s Peruvian attorney, Maximo Altez, told ABC News on Thursday that he plans to file a motion challenging the decision to temporarily extradite his client. Altez said he was not involved in the process and was surprised by the decision. He said his client, who currently remains at the Challapalca prison in southern Peru, is firmly opposed to the extradition and has never had the right to a fair defense.

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 likely within a week. U.S. Marshals will accompany van der Sloot on the flight, which will depart from Lima, the source said. 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.

Natalee 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 the seaside capital 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 Natalee 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 Natalee 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.”

ABC News contributor and former FBI special agent Brad Garrett said there may have been economic or political concessions behind the agreement between Peru and the U.S., such as the lifting of sanctions. Either way, he said, van der Sloot’s extradition “has big potential” for the Natalee Holloway case.

“Having van der Sloot on U.S. soil, still facing lengthy time in Peru, he may well be motivated to get out of Peru and perhaps he might finally tell the truth,” Garrett said Thursday on “Good Morning America.”

ABC News chief legal analyst Dan Abrams said he expects the extortion and wire fraud case against van der Sloot “to move pretty quickly.”

“These are document cases. This is stuff where we have emails, et cetera — that tends to make these kinds of cases easier against someone like that,” Abrams said Thursday on “GMA.” “So I would expect they’re going to have a pretty strong case against him.”

ABC News’ Aicha El Hammar Castano and Doug Lantz contributed to this report.

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