Joran van der Sloot, the Dutchman who confessed to the murder of Stephany Flores in Peru, has long been the main suspect in the disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba five years ago. As the murder case in Peru evolves, new details show that the FBI had reopened the Aruba case – and may have inadvertently funded Mr. van der Sloot´s trip to Peru.
US officials acknowledged Wednesday that they were building a criminal case against Mr. van der Sloot but delayed his arrest to obtain more evidence. In the meantime, van der Sloot fled to Peru and has since confessed to killing 21-year-old Flores after the two met gambling in a Lima casino.
On Wednesday, the FBI and US Attorney´s Office in Alabama released a statement saying that they were not far enough along with the case to detain van der Sloot. Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy asked FBI Director Robert Mueller to clarify "exactly what happened in this case and the basis for all actions taken by the FBI," according to the AP.
They will likely face questions in Peru, too. “It depends on how this case develops,” says Diana Miloslavich Tupac, who works at a women´s group in Lima called Flora Tristan, Center of the Peruvian Women. The entire saga has provoked “national outrage, not just from women´s groups but from society overall,” she says.
Ms. Flores, who is the daughter of a former race car driver and businessman, was found beaten to death in van der Sloot´s hotel in Lima last week. After fleeing to Chile and being detained and returned to Peru, he confessed to the killing, explaining to authorities that he was angered when he went to buy breakfast and returned to find Flores surfing the Web on his laptop.
Will confession be thrown out?
Van der Sloot's lawyer told CNN affiliate Panamericana TV that he will try to get his client´s confession thrown out because van der Sloot was not being properly represented at the time of interrogation. A public attorney was present, but van der Sloot's attorney says he wasn't given the option of having a private attorney.
Peru's criminal police chief, Gen. César Guardia, denied that the confession had been obtained under force. “Here we have not laid a finger on him. All rights have been respected,” he was quoted as saying in La Republica newspaper.
But whether the confession stands or not will have little bearing on the FBI case. The Natalee Holloway case was reopened in April when van der Sloot allegedly contacted a lawyer for Holloway´s mother, requesting $250,000 in exchange for disclosure of where the body lies. According to the Associated Press, which relies on testimony from a private detective working for the family and US officials, the family contacted the FBI, which sent a dozen agents to Aruba to set up a sting operation.
Who paid van der Sloot $25,000?
They told van der Sloot he would receive a first installment of $25,000 and then $225,000 once the body was found.
A meeting between the family lawyer and van der Sloot in a hotel in Aruba was videotaped secretly by the FBI. In that tape, the AP reports, van der Sloot said that he pushed Holloway down and she hit her head on a rock and died. He added that he contacted his father, who died this winter, to help him bury the body. Under FBI surveillance, van der Sloot accompanied the family lawyer to the site of the body but it was not found.
The FBI has come under fire for not making an arrest earlier, and denied that it paid van der Sloot thousands of dollars. The FBI released a statement Wednesday that the money wired to van der Sloot came from private funds, reports the AP. But the investigator working for the Holloway family said van der Sloot was given $10,000 in cash, and $15,000 was wired to a bank account in his name.
In a criminal complaint filed June 3 by the US Attorney's office in Alabama, van der Sloot was charged with extortion and wire fraud in the wire transfer of $15,000 from a Birmingham bank to a bank in The Netherlands. The complaint is signed by FBI agent William K. Bryan. It does not state where the $15,000 in funds came from. It does not mention the $10,000 in cash.
The FBI statement, responding to criticism that it should have moved sooner, said: "Despite having been in motion for several weeks at the time of Miss Flores' death, it was not sufficiently developed to bring charges prior to the time van der Sloot left Aruba.”
A senior FBI official defended bureau´s moves on CBS News as an attempt to get van der Sloot for murder, not just extortion: Van der Sloot "had avoided arrest for five years. If we had nabbed him [for extortion], he would have clammed up. He is not afraid of anyone. It would have spooked him."