A judge in the United States on Friday ruled that two Massachusetts men can be legally extradited to Japan to face charges they helped former Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn flee the country last year in a box on a private jet.
US Magistrate Judge Donald Cabell in Boston rejected the arguments against extradition by US Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor.
The final decision on extradition rests with the US State Department, however.
The Taylors’ lawyers had argued they could not be extradited because the 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 harbour or to enable the escape of someone who has committed a crime.
Ghosn fled Japan on December 29, 2019, while awaiting trial on charges that he engaged in financial wrongdoing, including by understating his compensation in Nissan’s financial statements.
The former Nissan Motor Co chairman has denied any wrongdoing. He said he fled Japan because he could not expect a fair trial, was subjected to unfair conditions in detention and was barred from meeting his wife under his bail conditions.
US prosecutors say the Taylors facilitated “one of the most brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history”, allowing Ghosn to flee to Lebanon.
The escape flight went first to Turkey, then to Lebanon, where Ghosn has citizenship but which has no extradition treaty with Japan.
Lawyers for the Taylors did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Reuters news agency on Friday.
Prosecutors said the elder Taylor, a private security specialist, and his son received more than $1.3m from Ghosn and his family members for their services.
The pair was arrested in May at Japan’s request and have been held without bail since then.