Wanted Peruvian ex-official has gone on run, Bolivia says

Former presidential adviser Martin Belaunde is pictured in La Paz, Peru , on May 13, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS
Former presidential adviser Martin Belaunde is pictured in La Paz, Peru , on May 13, 2015. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

LA PAZ (Reuters) - A former advisor to the Peruvian president who was awaiting extradition to Peru to face corruption charges has fled from house arrest in the Bolivian capital, La Paz, the Bolivian government said on Sunday.

Martin Belaunde, President Ollanta Humala's campaign adviser during his failed 2006 presidential bid, left Peru for Bolivia last year following allegations of graft and unlawful association.

Peruvian prosecutors allege that Belaunde belongs to a vast criminal network with links to public officials. The case has dented the popularity of Humala, who has repeatedly denied any knowledge of the alleged criminal activities.

Belaunde has denied the accusations and said he is a victim of political persecution. Earlier this month, he told Reuters that he feared for his life if he were returned to Lima.

Belaunde had fled in the early hours of Sunday from the residence where he was guarded by a team of police, said Juan Ramon Quintana, President Evo Morales' chief of staff.

Bolivia has issued a search and arrest warrant for Belaunde and notified Interpol, he said. "Our theory is that Mr. Belaunde presumably foiled the vigilance of the police or in complicity with the police custody team fled the residence," he said.

Belaunde's lawyer Jorge Valda told journalists that he did not know what had happened to his client. "All we know at present is that Martin Belaunde went to bed last night and this morning he wasn't there, it could have been a kidnapping or escape," he said. "We demand that the authorities tell us what happened, because this kind of thing cannot take place in a democratic state such as ours."

Belaunde's nephew Moises Ocampo told journalists the family had last seen him on Saturday evening and that he had appeared in good spirits. "We don't know what happened. We don't know if he is alive or dead," he said.

The Peruvian government has not yet commented on the case.