4585 Judge rules Ghosn's suspected escape plotters can be extradited

Judge rules Ghosn's suspected escape plotters can be extradited

BOSTON — A federal judge on Friday ruled that two Massachusetts men can be legally extradited to Japan to face charges they helped former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn flee the country in a box and on a private jet.

U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Cabell in Boston rejected the arguments against extradition by U.S. Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, and certified the case for the U.S. secretary of state to evaluate.

The Taylors’ lawyers had argued they could not be extradited because Japanese penal code does not make it a crime to help someone “bail jump,” and that they could only be charged if Japanese authorities were already pursuing Ghosn pre-escape.

But Cabell rejected that argument, saying their conduct “literally brings them squarely within the purview” of the law, which makes it a crime to harbor or enabling the escape of someone like Ghosn who has committed a crime.

U.S. prosecutors say the Taylors facilitated “one of the most brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history,” allowing Ghosn to flee to Lebanon, his childhood home, which has no extradition treaty with Japan.

Ghosn fled on Dec. 29, 2019, while awaiting trial on charges that he engaged in financial wrongdoing, including by understating his compensation in Nissan’s financial statements. Ghosn denies wrongdoing.

Prosecutors said both the elder Taylor, a private security specialist, and his son received more than $1.3 million from Ghosn and his family members for their services.

Both men were arrested in May at Japan’s request and have been held without bail since then.

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The final decision on whether the Taylors are sent back to Japan will rest with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. Since the spring, the Taylors have spent more than $100,000 on lawyers and lobbyists to press their case in Washington, including with officials at the White House and the State Department.

Still, the Washington lobbying campaign might be a long shot. Any extradition request that goes before a judge has already been vetted by officials in the State Department and the Justice Department who have determined it complies with the U.S. treaty.

“It’s extremely unlikely that there would be a split after a finding by State and Justice,” said Samuel Witten, a former State Department lawyer who helped supervise the extradition process from 1996 to 2001.

Paul Kelly, the Taylors’ lawyer, said they would present issues to the State Department that Cabell could not consider, including the “heroism and courage” of Michael Taylor and Japan’s “frequent refusal” to extradite its own citizens.

The State Department did not respond to a request for comment.

Bloomberg contributed to this report.

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