A U.S. judge on Thursday cleared the way for the extradition of an American father and son wanted by Japan for smuggling former Nissan Motor Co. Chairman Carlos Ghosn out of the country while he was awaiting trial.
U.S. District Judge Indira Talwani rejected a request to block the U.S. from handing Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, over to Japan. Her ruling comes three months after the U.S. State Department said it had approved their extradition.
Talwani had put their extradition on hold in October after their lawyers filed an emergency petition. The judge said in her ruling on Thursday that U.S. authorities have "sufficiently established" that that the actions the Taylors are accused of making "amount to an extraditable offense."
The men's lawyers, which included former Trump White House attorney Ty Cobb, had been lobbying officials within the State Department and White House to block the extradition.
Another one of their lawyers, Paul Kelly, declined to comment on Thursday. The Taylors' legal team said in court papers that they plan to appeal to the Boston-based 1st U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.
"This distinguished former member of the U.S. Army Special Forces and his son did not commit any crime and are being pursued by Japan in an effort to save face after the departure of Carlos Ghosn from their country," Cobb and attorney Paul Kelly said in an emailed statement after the State Department's October decision.
The Taylors are wanted by Japan so they can be tried on charges that they helped the former Nissan chairman flee the country last year with Ghosn tucked away in a box on a private jet. Ghosn had been out on bail and awaiting trial on allegations that he under-reported his future income and committed a breach of trust by diverting Nissan money for his personal gain.
Ghosn, who led Japanese automaker Nissan for two decades, rescuing it from near-bankruptcy, denies any wrongdoing. He said he fled 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.
Ghosn is now in Lebanon, where he has citizenship but which has no extradition treaty with Japan.
The Taylors have not denied helping Ghosn flee but insist they can't be extradited because they say what they are accused of isn't a crime under Japan law. They have been behind bars in Massachusetts since their arrest in May.
Prosecutors have described it as one of the most "brazen and well-orchestrated escape acts in recent history, involving a dizzying array of luxury hotel meetups, fake personas, bullet train travel and the chartering of a private jet."
Michael Taylor flew into Osaka on a chartered jet from Dubai with another man, George-Antoine Zayek, carrying two large black boxes and told airport employees they were musicians carrying audio equipment on Dec. 29, 2019, authorities said. Meanwhile, Ghosn headed to the Grand Hyatt in Tokyo and met up with Peter Taylor, who was already in Japan.
The elder Taylor and Zayek joined after a brief stop to rent a separate room near the airport. Soon after their arrival, the group left the Grand Hyatt and split up. Peter Taylor hopped on a flight to China, authorities say. The others got on a bullet train and went back to a hotel where Taylor and Zayek had booked a room. They all went in; only two were seen walking out.
Authorities say Ghosn was inside one of the big black boxes, lugged by the two men to Japan's Kansai International Airport, authorities said. The boxes passed through a security checkpoint without being checked and were loaded onto a private jet headed for Turkey, officials said in court documents.