Ex-presidential body guard ‘Lady Bi’ under arrest

Lady Bardales, the ex-police lieutenant and bodyguard to former President Alejandro Toledo, was escorted Thursday to Peru’s Justice Palace under heavy guard to face charges of illegal enrichment after eluding authorities for more than seven months.

Dubbed “Lady Bi” by Peru’s tabloid press — an allusion to Britain’s Princess Diana — Bardales was thrust into the public spotlight in 2005 based on rumors she was having an an affair with Toledo. But the tabloid fodder soon turned into mainstream headlines when she was later accused of indirectly benefiting from the notorious kickback scheme that tainted the former president’s pet project: the construction of a paved highway leading to his impoverished childhood village in the central Andes.

She was captured Wednesday night in her mother’s house in Peru’s northern coast city of Chiclayo.

“She was in her family’s home when we captured her, and she offered no resistance,” said Gen. Octavio Salazar, director of Peru’s national police. “We carried out a permanent surveillance to capture her and (Wednesday) morning we were able to intervene to deliver her to justice, as it should be.”

Bardales, 27, was indicted and tried for illegal enrichment after she couldn’t explain to a judge’s satisfaction how she had purchased $47,000 worth of real estate, owned a 1997 red Honda Accord and generally lived a lifestyle well out of the range of her monthly police salary of $553.

State prosecutors recommended eight years in prison and a fine of 80,000 soles, or about $250,000.

But Bardales argued — and maintains — that it was her then-fiancé, David Karadi, an Israeli citizen wanted on fraud charge, who gave her $40,000 to buy an apartment and cover her expenses from 2001 to 2005, and that the land was an inheritance from her great aunt, who before dying faked the land sale to sidestep probate challenges.

Karadi, a subcontractor on the road project, reportedly drowned in October 2005 when a tractor he was driving toppled into the Santa River, but his body was never recovered. He allegedly falsified invoices through his company Movicat SAC to cover up pay kickbacks to members of the armed forces overseeing the road construction. They, in turn, were accused of siphoning approximately 1.2 million soles, or nearly $400,000, from the road project, which was left half done.

An arrest order was issued for Bardales’ capture Nov. 26 2007, after she failed to show up to Court to receive a verdict on two separate occasions. Bardales claimed she was sick the first time and then disappeared after missing her second court session.

“My daughter was planning to give herself in, she was only preparing the necessary paperwork to prove her innocence in court,” said Bardales’ mother, Marianella Castillo Aizcorbe.

Bardales, who tried her hand at modeling after leaving the police force, was spotted and photographed by a Peruvian journalist sunbathing in Mancora, a beach resort in northern Peru, accompanied by an unidentified, fair haired man, whom some speculated was Karadi.

The Lima tabloid Trome reported that Karadi’s family, convinced that he is still alive, is offering a $100,000 reward for any information leading to his recovery.

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