LIMA, Peru—A judge on Thursday ordered the arrest of former Peruvian President Alejandro Toledo as part of a regionwide corruption scandal tied to Brazilian construction giant Odebrecht SA.
Judge Richard Concepción said evidence presented by prosecutors pointed to a “high degree of probability” that Mr. Toledo allegedly took bribes from Odebrecht in exchange for public-works contracts during his administration.
Judge Concepción ordered Mr. Toledo, who governed from 2001 to 2006, to be detained for 18 months as prosecutors prepare charges of money laundering and influence peddling.
Prosecutors suspect Mr. Toledo took $20 million in bribes in exchange for steering to Odebrecht contracts for a highway project connecting southern Peru to Brazil.
Prosecutors say they have evidence that some of those funds were deposited into offshore bank accounts of a close associate of the former president.
Mr. Toledo, who rose to power leading protests against the corrupt regime of jailed former President Alberto Fujimori, has denied wrongdoing.
His lawyer, Heriberto Benítez, argued in court that the arrest order for the 70-year-old Mr. Toledo was excessive.
After the ruling, Mr. Benitez told reporters that Mr. Toledo would appeal the decision. He said he would recommend to Mr. Toledo that he not return to Peru, claiming that he wouldn’t receive a fair trial.
Mr. Toledo, a visiting scholar at Stanford University, is believed to be outside of Peru. Attorney General Pablo Sánchez said this week that an international arrest warrant would be issued if he doesn’t return to Peru voluntarily.
The Odebrecht scandal has reverberated across Latin America after the company admitted in December that it paid almost $800 million in bribes to officials to win large public-works contracts, according to a settlement with the U.S. Department of Justice.
The man in the photo is prosecutor Hamilton Castro. An earlier version of this article said it was Attorney General Pablo Sanchez.
In addition, former President Alejandro Toledo is facing accusations of money laundering and influence peddling.
An earlier version of this article incorrectly said he was facing charges of illicit enrichment.