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Ghosn's accused escape plotters face judge's skepticism in extradition fight

BOSTON (Reuters) - A U.S. judge on Friday expressed doubt about arguments by two Massachusetts men seeking to avoid extradition to Japan to face charges they helped former Nissan Motor Co 7201.T Chairman Carlos Ghosn flee the country.

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U.S. Army Special Forces veteran Michael Taylor and his son, Peter Taylor, were arrested in May at Japan’s request, after being accused of smuggling Ghosn out of Japan in a box on a private jet so he could escape to Lebanon.

Ghosn fled in December while awaiting trial on charges of financial misconduct, including by understating his compensation in Nissan’s financial statements. Ghosn denies wrongdoing.

The Taylors’ lawyer, Abbe Lowell, during a virtual hearing told U.S. Magistrate Judge Donald Cabell in Boston that Japanese prosecutors put forth a biased interpretation of their laws to justify bringing flawed charges against the two men.

Lowell said Japan’s penal code does not make it a crime to help someone “bail jump,” and that the Taylors could be charged only if Japanese authorities were already pursuing Ghosn pre-escape.

“To help somebody hide, to use the children’s game, there has to be someone seeking,” Lowell said.

But Cabell said he was concerned about letting U.S. courts usurp the authority of Japan’s courts to decide whether the elder Taylor, a private security specialist, and his son violated Japanese law.

“It has the potential of keeping this issue from being truly being fleshed out and truly being considered by the experts who really would be in the best position to opine on it, which is to say the judges and the courts in Japan,” Cabell said.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Stephen Hassink urged Cabell to defer to Japan. Cabell said he would rule within a week.

Should courts agree the Taylors can be extradited, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo would ultimately decide whether to surrender them.

Reporting by Nate Raymond; Editing by Lisa Shumaker and Leslie Adler

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