By Elana Lyn Gross Forbes Staff
A U.S. judge on Friday ruled two American men can be legally extradited to Japan to face charges that they helped former Nissan Motor Chairman Carlos Ghosn flee the country to escape criminal prosecution.
Massachusetts District Court Judge Donald Cabell ruled that Japan met the requirements outlined in its extradition treaty with the U.S. when it asked for former U.S. Army Special Forces soldier Michael Taylor and his son Peter Maxwell Taylor to be sent to Tokyo.
Their lawyers had argued they could not be extradited because Japanese law does not make it a crime to help someone “bail jump” and claimed they could only be charged if authorities were in “active pursuit of a criminal.”
Cabell disagreed saying their conduct “literally brings them squarely within the purview” of the law, which makes it a crime to harbor or enable the escape of someone who has committed a crime.
Prosecutors said they executed “one of the most brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history” and were paid more than $1.3 million from Ghosn and his family for helping him escape from Tokyo to Lebanon, where there is no extradition treaty.
The final decision on whether they will be extradited lies with U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and the duo has reportedly spent more than $100,000 on lawyers and lobbyists to make their case in Washington.
Ghosn was arrested in Japan in November 2018 and charged with multiple counts of financial wrongdoing, including hiding his total compensation from regulators and using Nissan’s resources for his own benefit; he has strongly denied all charges.
Ghosn has denied all allegations, arguing they were part of a coup to stop his efforts to strengthen Nissan’s alliance with its French partner, Renault.
Nissan has denied Ghosn’s claim.
Ghosn helped engineer Renault’s $5.4 billion bailout of Nissan in 1999 and set up the alliance between Renault, Nissan and Mitsubishi. He was seen as one of the auto industry’s most powerful leaders before his arrest and enjoyed lavish perks, including private jets, homes and a multimillion-dollar compensation package.
Ghosn has been vocal about his treatment in Japanese jail, saying he was held in solitary confinement for long periods and interrogated for hours without a lawyer.
His arrest and 100-day detention pushed the Japanese justice system into an unflattering spotlight. Japanese courts have a conviction rate close to 100% and defendants in the majority of cases confess to their crimes. Ghosn defended his escape in a statement shortly after arriving in Lebanon.
“I have not fled justice – I have escaped injustice and political persecution,” he said, adding that he would “no longer be held hostage by a rigged Japanese justice system where guilt is presumed.”
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