A US judge has ruled that two men who are accused of helping ex-Nissan boss Carlos Ghosn flee to Lebanon can be extradited to Japan.
Michael Taylor and his son Peter Taylor were arrested by US authorities in May in connection with Mr Ghosn’s dramatic escape from house arrest in Japan, where he was on bail awaiting trial on charges of financial crimes.
The pair, who have been held in custody by US authorities since, have been fighting a request for their transfer to Japan, which has issued warrants for their arrest in connection with their alleged role in helping Mr Ghosn flee. The US is one of the few countries that has an extradition treaty with Japan.
Lawyers for the Taylors have argued against Japan’s extradition request, claiming that “jumping bail” is not technically a crime in Japan. The judge on Friday said questions about Japanese law should be decided by Japanese authorities, not a US court.
The court’s ruling will pave the way for extradition proceedings to begin against the Taylors. Ultimately, the decision to extradite or not will be taken by the US Department of State.
The state department and a lawyer for the Taylors did not immediately return a request for comment.
Mr Ghosn led Nissan for almost two decades before his arrest in 2018. His escape from Japan took place several months before he was due to stand trial on the charges of financial misconduct that triggered his downfall from the head of what was then the world’s largest automotive alliance.
He has denied any wrongdoing and denounced the charges as being part of a plot to oust him from the company.
His escape from Tokyo to Beirut involved a bullet train ride across Japan, two private jet flights and a specially converted music equipment box. He is now in Lebanon, which does not have an extradition treaty with Japan.
When the Taylors were arrested in the US, the Boston US attorney’s office recommended the pair be denied bail on account of their expertise at “hatching escape plans” and “co-ordinating complex plans to avoid detection by law enforcement”.
Those court papers laid out a detailed account of the alleged operation — including the role of 27-year-old Peter Taylor, who followed his father into the security business.
According to prosecutors, Peter Taylor travelled to Japan three times in the months before the escape, meeting with Mr Ghosn — then under house arrest — on at least seven occasions.
Mr Ghosn ultimately allegedly escaped the country hidden inside a box resembling those used to carry musical instruments, which was stowed on to a private jet without being screened by security. US prosecutors said in court filings that Mr Ghosn made $862,000 in wire payments to a company linked to the Taylor family.
Michael Taylor, a former US Army Green Beret, served in Lebanon in the early 1980s, using his contacts from that time to help build a private security business in the region once he left active military service.
According to previous court papers, Mr Taylor has also worked as an undercover agent in the Middle East for the Drug Enforcement Agency and the Federal Bureau of Investigation, as well as working as a private investigator.