MEXICO CITY (AP) — Peru’s government will allow the extradition to the United States of the prime suspect in the unsolved 2005 disappearance of American student Natalee Holloway on the Dutch Caribbean Island of Aruba, bringing her family hope there will be justice in the case.
Dutch citizen Joran van der Sloot will face trial for alleged extortion and wire fraud, charges stemming from the Holloway case. The Peruvian Embassy in Washington told The Associated Press on Wednesday the executive order allows for his temporary extradition.
Holloway, who lived in suburban Birmingham, Alabama, was 18 when she was last seen during a trip with classmates to Aruba. Her mysterious disappearance after a night with friends at a nightclub sparked years of news coverage, particularly in the tabloid and true-crime media.
Holloway’s body was never found, and no charges were filed against van der Sloot in the case. A judge later declared Holloway dead.
A grand jury in Alabama in 2010 indicted van der Sloot on wire fraud and extortion charges, accusing him of trying to extort $250,000 from Holloway’s mother in exchange for information on where her daughter was buried.
An FBI agent wrote in an affidavit that van der Sloot reached out to Holloway’s mother and wanted to be paid $25,000 to disclose the location and then another $225,000 when the remains were recovered. During a recorded sting operation, van der Sloot pointed to a house where he said Holloway was buried but in later emails admitted to lying about the location, the agent said.
Van der Sloot is in Peru because he is serving 28 years in prison there after being convicted of murdering 21-year-old Peruvian student Stephany Flores who he met in a Lima casino in 2010.
The slaying occurred five years to the day after Holloway disappeared in Aruba, where van der Sloot lived. She was last seen leaving a bar with him.
“At a time when there is increasingly greater cross-border transit of people, our institutions are keeping up to ensure that criminals are brought to justice,” Edgar Alfredo Rebaza, director of Peru’s Office of International Judicial Cooperation and Extraditions of the National Prosecutor’s Office, said in a statement about the decision to extradite van der Sloot. “We will continue to collaborate on legal issues with allies such as the United States, and many others with which we have extradition treaties.”
A 2001 treaty between Peru and the U.S. allows a suspected to be temporarily extradited to face trial in the other country. It requires that the prisoner “be returned” after judicial proceedings are concluded “against that person, in accordance with conditions to be determined by” both countries.
In a statement, the young woman’s mother said she was blessed to have Natalee in her 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,” the mother said.
Attorney Maximo Altez, who represents van der Sloot, told the AP he will fight the decision once he is properly notified by the Peruvian government.
“I am going to challenge that resolution,” Altez said. “I am going to oppose it since he has the right to a defense.”
Van der Sloot pleaded guilty in January 2012 to a murder charge in the slaying of Flores.
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Prosecutors accused him of killing Flores, a business student from a prominent family, to rob her after learning she had won money at the casino where the two met. They said he killed her with “ferocity” and “cruelty,” beating then strangling her in his hotel room.
Van der Sloot could not immediately be reached for comment on Wednesday. More than a decade ago, he told a Peruvian judge that he would fight efforts to be extradited to the U.S.
Van der Sloot married a Peruvian woman in July 2014 in a ceremony at a maximum-security prison.