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Bolivia to ask Washington to extradite escaped U.S. businessman

U.S. citizen Jacob Ostreicher leaves a court in a helmet and bulletproof vest after being released on bail, in Santa Cruz December 18, 2012.
U.S. citizen Jacob Ostreicher leaves a court in a helmet and bulletproof vest after being released on bail, in Santa Cruz December 18, 2012.

LIMA (Reuters) - Bolivia said it will ask Washington to extradite a U.S. businessman who fled the South American country after being imprisoned for alleged money laundering.

Jacob Ostreicher, 54, snuck across the Peruvian border Sunday night and flew to the United States from Lima, Bolivian Justice Minister Cecilia Ayllon said.

"He is someone being processed for common crimes and has no immunity," Ayllon told reporters. "This affords us greater clearance in requesting his extradition."

Ayllon said she will also ask Interpol for help in bringing him back to Bolivia.

Ostreicher was arrested in June of 2011 for alleged money laundering and links to drug trafficking after buying a farm in 2008. He spent a year and a half in prison before going under house arrest in December of 2012.

Ostreicher has denied all allegations and insisted the prosecution lacked proof of wrongdoing.

The Hollywood actor Sean Penn drew attention to Ostreicher's case, arguing he had been illegally detained. U.S. lawmakers also sent a letter urging President Evo Morales to release him.

Ostreicher's escape marks the second high-profile getaway from Bolivia in four months. Bolivian opposition senator Roger Pinto fled to Brazil in August after being accused of corruption and spending a year holed up in the Brazilian embassy in La Paz.

(Reporting By Daniel Ramos, writing by Mitra Taj; editing by Andrew Hay)

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