A U.S. man who has spent 18 months in a Bolivian jail on charges of money laundering is to be shifted to house arrest, a judge in the eastern city of Santa Cruz ordered Tuesday.

Jacob Ostreicher, a 53-year-old flooring contractor from New York, came to Bolivia in 2008 to start a rice plantation in the eastern province of Santa Cruz.

He was arrested in January 2011 on suspicion of money laundering after his Bolivian agent purchased land from two Brazilian nationals suspected of ties to drug trafficking.

In Tuesday's hearing, the 30th of the trial, evidence was admitted that had previously been rejected, such as that obtained in the recent dismantling of a ring of officials who allegedly demanded bribes from Ostreicher.

Defense attorney Yimy Montaño told Efe that his client was tremendously happy about the judge's decision and feels "a little calmer" now, to which the presence of his wife has also contributed - he had not seen her for nine months because she had to return to the United States.

Ostreicher arrived at the hearing protected with a helmet and a bulletproof-vest amid a strong police escort. His defense attorneys said he feared for his life.

Ostreicher's situation is being followed closely by the State Department and U.S. lawmakers, and actor Sean Penn took time during a trip to Bolivia to visit the businessman behind bars.

The American, who suffers from Parkinson's disease, has spent much of the last month at a clinic in Santa Cruz city.

According to Montaño, his client will go back to the clinic to be given his release, and on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday he will return home. EFE