A judge in Boston signaled he may authorize the extradition of two Americans to face criminal charges in Japan for their alleged role in helping former Nissan Co. chief Carlos Ghosn escape prosecution for financial misconduct.
U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Cabell expressed skepticism at a hearing Friday about the ability of American courts to interpret Japanese law. He said denying a request by Tokyo prosecutors for the return of Michael Taylor and his son Peter could prevent the case “from truly being fleshed out and truly being considered by the experts.”
The Taylors were arrested in May at the request of Japan, which says they broke the law by engineering Ghosn’s dramatic escape from Tokyo last December. At the hearing, their defense lawyers argued the men’s alleged actions aren’t crimes under Japan’s penal code. But the U.S. judge said a Tokyo court may be a more appropriate place to resolve that legal dispute.
“Part of me is wondering, the more we argue about this, doesn’t that suggest that this should be left to their courts to work out, rather than a court here?” Cabell asked.
At the end of the hearing, Cabell said he planned to decide within a week whether the Taylors are eligible for extradition under the terms of the U.S. treaty with Japan.
The U.S. judge’s skepticism of the Taylors’ arguments wasn’t a surprise. Cabell denied the men bail in July, saying their alleged actions appeared to “fall squarely within the heartland” of Japanese law.
Much of the Taylors’ defense hinges on Article 103 of Japan’s penal code, which prohibits harboring criminals or enabling the flight of anyone who has committed a crime or escaped from confinement.
The Taylors say that English translation doesn’t capture the more complicated Japanese concept that was intended in the law — “working against law enforcement authorities’ active pursuit of a criminal to arrest him.” Because Ghosn was out on bail when he fled, the Taylors say, the authorities were not actively pursuing him.
“There has to be an existing investigation,” Abbe Lowell, an attorney for the Taylors, said at the hearing. “In December of 2019, Mr. Ghosn was not under investigation for financial crimes. He had been charged and was out on condition of release.”
But the U.S. government said that Cabell should defer to the legal interpretation of Japanese prosecutors overseeing the case, who have argued that Article 103 covers a wide range of offenses, including the type of escape plot allegedly masterminded by the Taylors.
“This statute has been applied broadly,” said Stephen Hassink, an assistant U.S. attorney in Boston. “An extradition hearing is not the appropriate venue to make a parsing, searching determination of foreign law.”